Sinanyan, Public and Councilmembers Question Timing and Motives Behind the Motion
BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
GLENDALE—The Glendale City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to table a motion to remove Glendale City Council candidate Zareh Sinanyan from the Glendale Community Development Block Grant Advisory Board after public speakers and city council members called into question the timing of the effort to unseat the long-time commissioner.
The effort to strip Sinanyan of his commission seat was being led by Councilmember Laura Friedman, herself a candidate in the elections. In making the motion at the previous council session on March 5, she cited emails she had received alleging that Sinanyan has authored online comments on various platforms such as YouTube that were deemed racist and misogynistic. The comments attributed to Sinanyan were generally in response to violent, offensive and racist remarks against Armenians by people aggressively denying the Armenian Genocide.
In remarks in front of city council members and an overflow audience during Tuesday’s session, Sinanyan called into question the timing of this “well-orchestrated, well financed and long term effort,” which he said had an “ultimate goal of forcing me out of this race.”
Sinanyan expressed outrage that fellow candidate Friedman, guided by the organizers of the smear campaign would use the council dais to advance her own candidacy.
“In a blatant disregard for ethical standards and City Council’s own rule against using the City Council meetings for electioneering purposes, Laura Friedman made the motion for no other reason than to hurt and eliminate someone she perceived to be her political rival, someone who had raised far more funds than her, and had as many if not more political endorsements as her,” said Sinanyan.
“I am being asked about and will be asked in the future, and will not allow you or anyone else to keep dragging me back to City Council to confirm or refute the origin of the subsequent batches of such statements and continue to try to further disrupt my campaign,” said Sinanyan referring to online threats by anonymous sources to release more materials attributed to him in this ongoing smear campaign.
“The words attributed to me are not me. They do not represent who I am as a person. They do not reflect my values, my ideals, my way of life. Anyone who knows me knows this to be true. And I am humbled by the fact that there is a room full of people that will attest to that,” emphasized Sinanyan.
“In the end, those who believe that these statements are me, and that they are reflective of my personality, will simply not vote for me, and American Democracy will prevail one way or another,” added Sinanyan saying his record of public service, including six years on different city commission, speaks for itself. He urged the city council and the residents of Glendale to return to the discussion of the issues at the center of the April 2 election.
One by one, speakers from the audience forcefully commented against efforts to smear Sinanyan and pointed to Freidman’s incessant attempts to discredit his candidacy. No one spoke against Sinanyan.
In commentary at the meeting, Friedman expressed disappointment that she was being attacked, but angrily pressed Sinanyan about whether he had actually written any of the comments attributed to him—a point that Sinanyan had repeatedly addressed during comments and responses to other questions.
Citing the fact that Rep. Adam Schiff and LA City Councilman Paul Krekorian had already rescinded their endorsements of Sinanyan, she brought up the issue out of responsibility at a city official.
Friedman then proceeded to read Rep. Schiff’s statement, which later Councilmember Rafi Manoukian said was taken out of context and demonstrated that Rep. Schiff had not taken the allegations against Sinanyan at face value.
“We certainly hope that this is not the case, and that he has no connection to the vile comments that are being attributed to him,” said a note sent to Sinanyan’s campaign last week from Rep. Schiff’s office. “Until this matter is resolved, however, Mr. Schiff must withdraw his endorsement.”
Manoukian also warned about making hasty decisions in such instances, advising that “whenever there is an issue like this, it’s better to pick up the phone to call.”
Manoukian said that it was inappropriate to bring this issue to City Council three weeks prior to the elections.
“I think this is a political hit. I don’t know if Ms. Friedman did it purposefully or she was coaxed into doing it… I don’t know her motivations because I haven’t talked to her, but it’s certainly—completely—uncalled for three weeks before the election and it should not be even discussed in this council,” said Manoukian.
“When we talk about electioneering, this is the worst kind of electioneering in my opinion,” he added.
“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t be throwing stones. I hope that my fellow Council members don’t continue this type of questioning because I will make other things public that they will be very upset about,” said Manoukian who also warned that attacks such as the one on Sinanyan have rippling affects on a person’s personal and business lives.
He also said that the atmosphere of attacks and smear campaigns will deter future young Glendale residents to seek public office.
“That is going to discourage, in the future, individuals—young individuals—who are active in the community, like Mr. Sinanyan, like his spouse, like many of the individuals who are here today to run for council because they are going to be afraid that someone is going to make something up and bring it up and smear them with it couple of weeks before the campaign,” explained Manoukian. “Who would run for election then? Who would want to run for City Council against the incumbents when that sort of tactic is being used in an election?”
Councilmember Dave Weaver said he had received a copy of the anonymous emails from fellow councilmember Ara Najarian half hour prior to last week’s session. Najarian seconded Friedman’s motion last week.
“I couldn’t fathom whether any of this is true or not,” said Weaver. “I don’t care to vote yes or no because I don’t have all the answers. I hate to see anybody’s character impugned.”
Najarian explained that the importance for Sinanyan to come forward to address the allegations prompted him to second the motion during the previous City Council session. He revealed that he had phoned Sinanyan to urge him to resign his position as commissioner, but did not discuss the specifics of the matter with him.
After pressing Sinanyan for explanations that he had already provided, Najarian concluded that “personally I don’t have enough information to make a decision. I don’t have enough information to remove Mr. Sinanyan,” said Najarian at the close of his comments.
Mayor Frank Quintero said when he first read the anonymous email, he was stunned since he had known Sinanyan and had observed his performance in various commissions.
He urged Sinanyan to investigate the matter.
“The election will take care of everything,” Weaver said at the conclusion of the agenda item.