By J. Shadé Quintanilla
On Tuesday evening, the Glendale city council meeting was filled with police officers. Many officers and staff from the Glendale Police Department came to the meeting to protest Councilmember Vartan Gharpetian’s nomination of Albert Abkarian to the Civil Service Commission. Abkarian previously served as chair of the Civil Service Commission and as a member of the Glendale Charter Committee.
Sergeant Jason Ross spoke before the council on behalf of the police department and listed the many reasons why the police department opposes Abkarian’s nomination. He first began his argument by replaying a recorded conversation between Abkarian and Glendale Detective Petros Kmbikyan. The detective called Abkarian to ask him about what he was planning on testifying as a witness for the trial Yousefian v. City of Glendale. Abkarian responded to a few of the detective’s questions, but declined to comment on his testimony. Abkarian ended the phone call by hanging up on Kmbikyan.
Ross noted that after the phone call, Abkarian filed a complaint against Kmbikyan, claiming that the detective was intimidating him. The complaint was investigated and found to be “a gross and exaggerated misrepresentation of what transpired” and was classified as unfounded. The complaint still remains on Kmbikyan’s record.
Ross also pointed to different occasions when the police department believes Abkarian demonstrated ill feelings towards police enforcement and the city of Glendale. Specifically, he noted that Abkarian’s law firm, Albert Abkarian & Associates, has brought many cases against the city.
“I question whether someone who has filed a complaint against a police officer, later testifying under oath to the same allegations, and who has made disparaging comments to our police officers while sitting as a bench officer in court, is suitable to sit on a commission that oversees employee discipline,” stated Ross.
“To us, his bias and issues are clear,” continued Ross. “I can only imagine what other preconceived opinions he might bring to the table.”
The council voted 4-3, with Mayor Ara Najarian abstaining, in support of Abkarian to the Civil Service Commission. Councilmember Laura Friedman voted against the appointment on the grounds of the police enforcement’s lack of trust of Abkarian.
“It’s essential for this commission to function properly that the employees see the decisions that are being made are fair and unbiased,” she said. “Clearly in this case, there is a valid concern raised, a concern that the employees feel is valid, and I think we need to respect that and make sure whoever is appointed is somebody in whom the decisions will be respected and not questioned.”
Councilmember Zareh Sinanyan voted in favor of the nomination, but recognized the police department’s concerns. “I’m willing to believe in Mr. Abkarian, as a civil commissioner in the past, that he will do his job properly and will be extremely fair to everyone involved,” he said.
Police and department staff immediately exited the room after the council vote.