By Mary O’KEEFE
On Monday morning in L.A. Superior Court, Dept. 102, former City of Glendale councilman and mayor John Drayman was sentenced to 365 days in Los Angeles County jail and five years probation in addition to paying restitution after pleading guilty on March 12 to embezzlement, giving false statement to the California State Franchise Tax Board and perjury.
The case against Drayman began in 2011, when the Glendale Police Dept. was contacted by representatives of the Montrose Shopping Park Association concerning apparent embezzlement of funds from the association-sponsored Harvest Market.
For years the Harvest Market had been operating in the red. The Harvest Market had started as a Thursday night event but due to several issues was closed; the current version was opened on Sunday mornings in 2002. MSPA members accepted the loss as standard for farmer’s markets.
The market had brought many people into the shopping park – more people was good for business, so the loss seemed to be worth the consumer traffic, Dale Dawson, MSPA business administrator said at the time.
Then a few members of the MSPA took trips to other farmer’s markets and found they were making money – a lot of money. They approached Drayman, who at the time was heading up the Harvest Market committee.
In an interview with CVW at the time the investigation began, then-MSPA president Alyce Russell said the economy’s downturn could have explained some of the apparent loss, but not all.
There were two sections of the Harvest Market: the produce/food booths and flea market. MSPA said it could not get an accurate accounting of the receipts and the paperwork from Drayman was not turned in in a timely manner. The MSPA has since installed new procedures to collect funds at the Harvest Market and almost immediately began making a profit.
Members of the MSPA executive board and Dawson requested receipts from Drayman, which did not satisfy their concerns. They felt money had been embezzled.
“When it first came up, Alyce and Maureen [Palacios, MSPA member] and I were sitting around and, for about 12 seconds, we thought let’s close the door and walk away,” Dawson said, remembering the 2011 decision.
But they felt the loss to the shopping park was too great and went to the GPD for help.
“At first, you are shocked and surprised, you can’t believe it; then you realize this is real and you get angry,” Dawson said.
For many in the MSPA, it was a difficult decision to go to the GPD. Russell had known Drayman for years, and considered him a friend. He has been credited with several Montrose improvements and bringing popular events to the area. When he ran for and won a seat on the 2007 Glendale City Council, he had a lot of local support.
GPD investigated the matter and it was turned over to the grand jury, which about a year later filed 28 counts against Drayman including embezzlement of about $304,000 and filing a false tax return. He was arrested, pled not guilty to all charges and was released on $200,000 bail that was raised by supporters. Over the years and court date appearances, Drayman had three different lawyers representing him; the last two were public defenders.
Last month, Judge Stephen Marcus accepted a plea agreement between the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office and Drayman. He pled guilty to embezzlement, giving false statements to the California State Franchise Tax Board and perjury. On Monday, he was sentenced to 365 days in L.A. County jail, he is to pay restitution of $304,853 to the MSPA and $14,016 to the franchise tax board. He was given five years probation.
During sentencing, Judge Marcus spoke about the increasing trend of officials betraying the trust of their constituents, paralleling the Bell scandal.
“Mr. Drayman, you are now part of that landscape,” Marcus said. “You violated that position of trust by the MSPA members and members of the community.” He added that Drayman indicated no sign of remorse for what he did.
There were several conditions attached to the probation including restitution, which the judge set at present at $1,000 a month; however, Drayman will have to meet with a financial evaluator to determine what he can actually afford.
“You received a fairly generous plea bargain,” said Marcus.
Stipulations made by prosecutor Deputy District Attorney Susan Schwartz included that Drayman could not run for office in the future.
Drayman was visibly shaking as the handcuffs were put on and he was taken into custody.
“This case has divided the community,” said Schwartz. “John Drayman has really betrayed the trust of people who relied on him. He has admitted his guilt. He stole from people that trusted him.”
She praised the MSPA for bringing the information forward and the Glendale Police Dept. for a “thorough job.”
“I think we have been trying to move on for so long, this is more closure,” Dawson said.
The MSPA has continued to move forward with reorganizing operations of events, which has seen dramatic results with the Harvest Market.
“The last two Sundays we just cracked the $4,000 [mark for Harvest Market],” Dawson said.
The success of the market has been a pleasant surprise to those in the shopping park.
Although everyone seems to be moving on, there is still a lingering sadness of the fall of one whom many considered a hometown hero.
“This is not a happy day for me, for [Drayman] going to jail,” Russell said of Drayman’s sentencing. “I know he deserves to go [to jail], but I loved John.”
Drayman’s projected release date is Sept. 26, 2014. His release is earlier than the original sentence due to AB109, the Public Safety Realignment, said Nicole Nishida, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept.
“[Drayman] could get additional credit if he is a trustee or [takes] an education class,” Nishida added.
She said it is not certain if Drayman will be part of those programs, but used that as examples that could affect his release date.