By Ted AYALA
Glendale City Council voted 3-2 on Tuesday night to include a ballot measure for the April 2013 city election that would modify how future city treasurers are appointed to office. Glendale’s charter currently places the power of appointment with voters, allowing city treasurers to serve for a four-year term. The ballot measure approved by Council would amend the city charter to allow the city manager to vet candidates for treasurer then present the candidates to Council, which would ultimately decide the appointment.
“[The] city manager is responsible for supervising government operations and implementing the policies adopted by the Council,” said Lucy Varpetian, senior assistant city attorney for Glendale. “As such the city manager has the overall role of overseeing the various departments of the city.”
According to Varpetian, the cost estimate provided by Los Angeles County for including the ballot measure in a municipal election would range from approximately $26,000 to $47,000.
“The rationale behind that [cost increase] is that we may need an additional ballot card,” Varpetian added. “[Costs are] not only dependent on the additional ballot language that would be added, but also the number of other candidates that would be running. That would shift the amount of space on the ballot.”
Glendale’s current City treasurer Ron Barucki stepped forth to the Council dais to speak in favor of the measure.
“I support this because it’s in the city’s best interests to do so,” he said. “What’s best for the city is to make sure it gets the most experienced, most qualified person as a city treasurer to manage the $400,000,000 [in the city’s portfolio]. Basically people who are qualified and can run a $400,000,000 portfolio are looking to pursue a career in the investment field. Election time distractions [due] to campaigning, attending luncheons, forums and fundraisers are all the political skills of a public servant, not a career money manager.”
“We have architects, medical doctors and even attorneys running for office. They don’t seem to have a problem finding individuals who will back them up and support them in an election,” countered Herbert Molano who spoke during public communications. “There are many competent people in [this] city with a lot of significant background who would love to serve and do well.”
Councilman Dave Weaver, however, voiced his strong support for amending the charter.
“If you make this a popularity contest, you’d drive this city into the ground and we wouldn’t be able to do anything about it,” he said. “It’s a good reason to have an appointed city treasurer and I think it ought to be the city manager that does the hiring. Let him bring in the people and have the City Council ratify his decision. That’s the best way to go.”
Adding his support was Councilman Frank Quintero.
“I think it’s a professional position – not any different from public works or GWP,” he said. “What you do is look for the right person who has the right background. It’s important that we move in that direction.”
Strongly opposing the measure was Councilman Rafi Manoukian, who intimated that vague, conspiratorial motives lay behind the push to make the treasurer position one appointed by Council.
“In my opinion the reason that this [measure] is coming up is because two years ago I ran for city treasurer. I thought I was running for a vacancy, but it turned out it wasn’t a vacancy. My opinion is that I came too close for comfort,” he said.
Councilman Ara Najarian, who had previously supported the measure, expressed a change of opinion.
“Last month I was in favor of making the [treasurer position] an appointed one,” he said. “That’s because in my mind I played out everything that could go wrong, and thinking of people that could run for the position who are popular and win. That was, maybe, not the best way to think about it. I support [keeping] the status quo where the position is elected by the citizens of Glendale.”
Though expressing that she did not have a strong opinion either way on the matter, Mayor Laura Friedman ultimately lent her support to the measure, casting the tie-breaking vote in its favor.
“To me it feels more like a professional position than an elected one,” she said. “It should be at will and that it should be appointed by the city manager. It’s worth putting it on the ballot because there is enough interest to warrant it. I’ve gotten many emails from people saying they’d like to see it on the ballot. That seems to be the will of many in the community.”