How the 2017 Glendale Election was Taken For a Ride.
During the April 2017 Glendale city council election, Council member Ara Najarian was running for re-election. At the time, Mr. Najarian was also on the MTA board and only by being re-elected could he stay on the MTA Board, a fact whose importance will become more clear later on.
The election was opposed by the Glendale Coalition for Better Government, exposing his record on over-development in Glendale and his record on raising utility rates. In response, on 3/20/2017, two weeks prior to the election, a group named “Glendale Voters for Good Government, Supporting Najarian for City Council 2017” was formed and funded exclusively by Southland Transit Inc., a transportation company in El Monte that donated $25,000 to this just recently formed campaign committee. (Exhibit B)
To put things in perspective, Mr. Najarian himself expended $102,000 for his re-election. So the help from Southland Transit Inc was an additional 25% boost to get him re-elected. The $25,000 was used by the campaign committee to send out mailings in support of Mr. Najarian. The impact of this large support must be contrasted by the fact that campaign contributions are limited to $1,100 per person in Glendale. A $25,000 expenditure by a “special friend” would make a substantial difference in getting him re-elected and maintaining his position at the MTA Board.
Why would Southland Transit Inc. from El Monte support Mr. Najarian’s Glendale re-election with such a large contribution? An investigation by the Glendale Coalition for Better Government into the affairs of Southland Transit Inc. lead the Coalition to a network of 14 transportation and investment companies all related to each other through Mr. Timmy Mardirossian. (Exhibit C)
As it turns out, Mr. Mardirossian is a well connected transportation service provider with companies such as, San Gabriel Transit Inc, Arcadia Transit Inc, California Transit Inc., LA City Cab LLC, G&S Transit Management Inc, Tri-City Transport Inc., Network Paratransit System Inc. and of-course Southland Transit Inc. Southland seems to be the most prominent at this time with a total contract award as of 2016 in the amount of $67,850,970 for providing MTA bus operating services. (Exhibit E)
Most notably, Mr. Najarian had affirmatively voted, among the other present board members, for an additional $11,942,234 in funding for a 10 month extension in 2016 bringing the total value of the Southland Transit contract to $67,850,970 (Exhibit E).
Conflict of Interest?
Continuing our investigation into the different companies of Mr. Mardirossian, without enumerating all the other companies, lead us to discover Stanley Funding LLC. A Glendale company that was in October 9, 2012, seeking the approval of a subdivision for a 4 condominium project in Glendale from Glendale City Council. Interestingly on October 9, 2012, Mr. Najarian indicated a conflict of interest without any explanation as required by Gov. Code § 87105 and excused himself from deliberation of that issue. (Exhibit F).
(a)(1)Publicly identify the financial interest that gives rise to the conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest in detail sufficient to be understood by the public, …
This violation of Gov Code 87105 wherein Mr. Najarian did not explain the conflict was suspicious. Furthermore is there any conflict of interest violations in awarding MTA contracts to the businesses of Mr. Mardirossian? Was Mr. Mardirosian ensuring that Mr. Najarian would stay on the MTA Board to secure a renewal? But for the violations of Mr. Najarian, we would not know but is suspicious.
Furthermore, the group “Glendale Voters for Good Government, Supporting Najarian for City Council 2017” had retained the services of Empirica Consulting, a political consulting firm, who is managed or operated by Mr. Areen Ibranossian, the chief of staff of Los Angeles City Council member Paul Kirkorian (Exhibit G). Mr. Kirkorian is also on the MTA board approving contracts for Southland Transit Inc. Empirica Consulting was also hired by Mr. Najarian during his 2013 Glendale City Council Election.(Exhibit H)
Given the lack of explanation at the 10/9/2012 City Council meeting, one could reasonably question whether there was a conflict of interest since 2012 on any matter that Mr. Najarian voted related to Mr. Timmy Mardirossian, or entities that Mr. Mardirossian controlled during MTA meetings. And we know that Mr. Najarian did in fact vote affirmatively to extend a Southland contract in December 2012 without declaring a conflict of interest at the MTA Board meeting (Exhibit I).
If you had a gut feeling that something was afoot, that somebody was getting taken on a ride, the feeling is mutual. This is the true story of the 2017 Glendale election being hijacked from average voters and taken for a ride across the streets of Los Angeles County by Southland Transit Inc while potentially securing themselves a multi-million dollar contract. Next time you hear Mr. Najarian proclaiming how beneficial his position at the MTA is for Glendale, I hope you will remember how beneficial is his MTA position to his continued re-election to city council.
Sufficient circumstantial evidence exists to warrant a full investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission and the MTA office of integrity. The above facts will be presented to the FPPC and the office of integrity at the MTA Board for further questioning of Mr. Najarian and his relationship with Mr. Mardirossian.
The Coalition would like to thank all those who have contributed to this investigation and all citizens who provided us information. If you find this type of investigative research beneficial to our city government, please consider donating to the Coalition.