By Ted AYALA
Anger by some residents over the Glendale City Council’s decision earlier this year to terminate the city’s contract with the long running Glendale Gun Show has yet to abate. Supporters of the gun show are hoping to use the city charter to remove one of the strongest opponents of the show.
The city last week responded to a lawsuit request filed by two Glendale residents in May that accused the city of violating a provision enacted in 1982 that prevents former councilmembers from “[holding] any compensated city office or city employment until two years after [they leave] office.”
The lawsuit request, submitted by John Rando and Mariano Rodas to Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris’ office, seeks to oust Councilmember Frank Quintero who had been the mayor when the ordinance against the Glendale Gun Show passed.
Quintero was voted last month by council to serve the remainder of former Councilmember Rafi Manoukian’s term. Manoukian had stepped down from office after successfully running for the office of treasurer. The ordinance against the gun show passed in March, shortly before the city election.
City Attorney Michael J. Garcia had interpreted the provision as one that prevented “a typical revolving-door policy” where former councilmembers would use “undue influence” to gain employment within the city government. He felt that it did not extend to a former councilmember returning to council after a brief period and further opined that the provision needs to be put within its legislative history in order to understand its true intent.
“It seems [this] could conceivably be the epitome of what voters intended to prevent,” read the complaint. “[In other words], councilmembers bypassing difficult and expensive elections to be appointed.”
Sean Brady of Michel & Associates, P.C., the lawyer for the plaintiffs, also represented Steve Friesen, the proprietor of the Glendale Gun Show, earlier this year.
At the March 12 city council meeting, Brady, then representing the gun show, warned that the way the ordinance was drafted would “require litigation.” However, Brady pointed out that the current lawsuit is unrelated to the earlier case.
“Our firm encountered residents who had issues with how the city is run, including its interpretation of its charter,” he said. “The city’s argument that my clients are merely seeking political retribution for Quintero’s vote on the gun show is unfounded and irrelevant.”
“[The City of Glendale] is basically saying that my clients should be disqualified from consideration because of their views on an unrelated political matter,” he continued. “Dismissing their views would be a violation of their 1st Amendment rights.”
The city responded earlier this month to the lawsuit request by stating that it was “misguided” and that it went “contrary to the voters’ intent and the city’s longstanding, well-established interpretation.”
In a response submitted June 17, Brady countered by saying that the city’s interpretation of the charter essentially ignored the language set in the charter.
“The sole issue here is whether [Frank] Quintero’s appointment to the city council violates Section 12 of the charter,” it reads. “On that score, Section 12 is clear: it bars former councilmembers from holding ‘any city office’ within two years of leaving office. The office of city councilmember is a ‘city office’ and the Defendants’ contention that the term ‘any city office’ excludes the city office of councilmember is ludicrous.”
“It requires one to ignore the plain language of […] Section 12,” it continued. “Nothing in the plain language of that section or its legislative history supports that contention.”
“The law doesn’t look beyond plain words,” Brady said. “The city is making this more complicated than it actually is.”
Whether other members of the city council could be the target of similar litigation remains to be seen. Former Councilmember Rafi Manoukian had originally proposed the ordinance banning the gun show. Debate was heard earlier this year regarding the legality of his stepping down from council in order to assume the position of treasurer.
“I can’t speak to that,” said Brady. “But I can tell you that as of right now we don’t have any clients interested in Mr. Manoukian, principally because he was elected by the people, which presents a very different context.”
He said that the thrust of his clients’ argument is against a former councilmember being appointed to city office, not elected.
A response from Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris’ office is still pending.
State law requires that plaintiffs seek to submit their lawsuit before the Attorney General’s office before they can proceed to court. This law was enacted in order to avoid the potential for nuisance litigation.