Council grills Manoukian nominees

CITY HALL — Several of Councilman Rafi Manoukian’s nominees for city boards and commissions were put on the hot seat Tuesday night as his colleagues questioned their qualifications.

Several of Manoukian’s picks — including city critic Richard Espiritu, former City Council candidate Vartan Gharpetian, and former commissioner Aram Kazazian — had drawn criticism in recent weeks, with some residents pointing to their past brushes with controversy.

Manoukian withdrew Espiritu — citing health concerns — from consideration and a vote on Kazazian’s appointment to the Glendale Water & Power Commission was postponed to a later meeting.

The City Council ultimately approved Manoukian’s eight other nominees Tuesday, along with those submitted by Councilman Dave Weaver, but some nominations still prompted tense exchanges on the dais.

“I’m uncomfortable with some of the nominations,” said Weaver, who voted against several of Manoukian’s nominations. “I don’t remember ever getting so many emails about pros and cons on nominees.”

Gharpetian, who Manoukian nominated to serve on the Parks, Recreation & Community Services Commission, was asked to address years-old allegations that, while serving as a Design Review Board member, he had tried to create a secret organization to counteract the influence of the city's homeowners associations.

“This was an event that concerned a lot of people, not just a few people…” said Mayor Laura Friedman, who ultimately abstained from the vote on his appointment. “I think we do have to have from our commissioners some answers from these kinds of events.”

Gharpetian countered that he had no ill intentions with the group, which he said had collected names to gather support for continuing renovations at Brand Library.

“It was turned into this huge conspiracy theory by a few people,” he said.

Manoukian, meanwhile, defended Gharpetian, citing his experience as a local youth soccer coach, and called the probing of his nominations unnecessary.

“I don’t remember anyone going through what Mr. Gharpetian went through today,” Manoukian said. “It was unnecessary. It was uncalled for in my opinion. It was unethical on the part of this council.”

Council members also quizzed Manoukian’s nominee to the Planning Commission, Greg Astorian, on whether his job as a prominent local Realtor could pose a conflict of interest.

“You’re a well respected broker throughout the city and the region,” said Councilman Ara Najarian. “My problem… is as a member of the Planning Commission, you will be faced with many conflicts which will prevent us having you express your full opinion, thoughts and input.”

But Astorian assured the dais that he would recuse himself from any votes that would directly affect his clients.

“I can’t believe we have to go through this much explanation for volunteer work,” Astorian said.

Councilman Frank Quintero stayed out of the fray, deferring completely to Weaver and Manoukian, saying council members should be held accountable for their choices.

“If he appointed a total idiot, then that would reflect on him. There are lots of folks I have voted for in the past that I don’t think are appropriate,” Quintero said. “That’s who they’ve chosen and I’m going to go along with their appointees. I think the large majority are appropriate.”

The City Council is scheduled to take up the remaining nominations — including one by Weaver due to a change in applicant requirements — on May 31.

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