By Mary O’KEEFE
For several weeks there have been rumors of video/audio tapes of continuous livestreaming from Vanguardians, a newsletter and online site publication that present information on a variety of issues that are of interest to Glendale stakeholders. Members of Glendale City Council have often publically questioned their methods and accuracy. The recordings give a glimpse into the inside workings of the publication as executive director Barry Allen conducts phone conversations with several (presumably) Glendale city officials in addition to community members and the media.
A few months ago, Vanguardian began to livestream its weekly meetings. Livestream allows the user to broadcast or view an online video stream using a camera or computer. The meetings were online, as promised, but the online livestream broadcast continued from Allen’s office. Some of those transmissions were archived and recorded, as a television show can be recorded. Crescenta Valley Weekly viewed some of the continuous livestream and recordings.
There were several hours of everyday life that were livestreamed mixed in with phone conversations between Allen and (presumably) Glendale city officials, including someone identified as Rafi Manoukian, which appears to be Councilmember Manoukian.
Councilman Manoukian has said that he has had conversations on the phone with Allen that he thinks now may have been recorded.
It is important to note that, for the most part, only one side of the conversation – Allen’s – was heard on the tapes. In some conversations, voices on the other end of the phone line are faintly heard. However, Allen often announced with whom he was speaking, for example, “Hello, Mr. Manoukian.” He then continued referring to him as “Rafi.” The actual identity of the party on the other line is assumed to be an individual related to the city of Glendale.
“We were testing livestream a couple of months ago. We were testing the video and audio portion,” Allen said.
When asked if he knew he was livestreaming 24 hours a day he replied, “Yes.”
California’s wiretapping law is a “two-party consent” law, which means that all parties must be informed of and consent to the recording.
Allen defended his experiment with livestreaming by adding that he only recorded his side of the conversation.
“Just like if we were livestreaming right now,” he said. “If (a recording) picked up your voice, it would have to [be done through] a wire [tap].”
There was a livestream of the Vanguardian’s Hanukkah party when the camera was placed at a higher angle. Several people attended the party and, it appeared in the livestream, the guests did not know the party was being sent out via the Internet.
“Yes, they were aware [of the recording],” Allen said.
But for Manoukian, the fact that only one side of phone conversations was sent out over the Internet does not comfort him.
“I had heard there were tapes floating around,” Manoukian said.
In one of the recordings, it appeared Manoukian was on the other end of a phone conversation and asked Allen if he was recording the conversations, and at one point even mentioned livestream. Allen assured him he was not being recorded adding the only way his or her conversation would have been recorded was if someone had “worn a wire.”
Manoukian has hosted and attended Vanguardian morning meetings in the past. He said he has participated in the meetings as he would with any organization that asked him to attend or speak.
Concerning the conversations and their online presence, Manoukian said, “I was disappointed that anything was recorded without my knowledge.”
Allen has made no secret that he does not approve of the way Mayor Laura Friedman or Councilmember Ara Najarian approach city issues. That opinion is voiced in the recordings when he spoke on the phone with present and past city officials, as well as community members, on several occasions.
In the recordings, a conversation was held concerning Najarian’s family and marriage.
Najarian, who had heard some of the recordings, had allegedly contacted a city official who in turn contacted Allen.
In one of the recordings, Allen referred to the fact that Najarian had asked if Allen was recording conversations.
“A friend of mine [called me] today and said that [Najarian] said we have been wire tapping and putting personal stuff out there,” Allen said in one of the online livestream recordings.
His assumption, he continued, was that Najarian’s personal and professional life were too stressful and that is where the recording accusations stemmed from.
“I am aware of the tapes,” Najarian said. “I have heard them and am offended at what I heard.”
For Manoukian’s part in the conversations, he said that he did not bring these types of issues up with Allen but that Allen would instigate this type of talk.
The recordings are now with the Glendale Police Department.
“I acknowledge there is a criminal inquiry into the way the [individuals] were targeted by the parties that are disclosed in the tapes,” Najarian said.
An inquiry is a preliminary search.
Friedman has not heard any of the recordings but did hear about the continuous livestream and was able to “tune in” for a little while.
She also acknowledged that the tapes were in the hands of the police and that there was an inquiry.
Although not able to listen to the recordings she did hear about Allen and others apparently “going after” one of her colleagues.
“It does concern me,” she said. “It does not make for good working relations.”
Friedman, who has been a target of Allen’s Vanguardian report on several occasions, said she defended his and everyone’s right to disagree and comment on city issues.
“He doesn’t care about accuracy,” she said. “He has written many things about me that are lies.”
She added she felt Allen and some that are working with him have a personal agenda instead of the city’s interests.
“I think reporters have every right to dig up relevant information on city officials,” she said. “[Allen] tries to smear with [false] information.…Anyone who is working with him I put into the same category.”