HomeCity Government NewsDespite Public Furor, Glendale City Council Votes Asatryan Mayor

Despite Public Furor, Glendale City Council Votes Asatryan Mayor

A deep divide in the city of Glendale was palpable at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, where Councilwoman Elen Asatryan was selected as mayor over Councilman Ara Najarian amid profanities and name-calling from the public.
The jeers and taunting echoed throughout Council’s chambers surrounding the decision — where numerous public commenters were ejected for the unruly behavior — the air thick with animosity. The raucous disruption was aimed toward the move by Council, in a 3-2 vote, to bypass Najarian as mayor in favor of Asatryan taking the gavel.
A city ordinance adopted in 2021 mandates that whichever Councilmember has served the longest on the dais since last holding the mayorship is next in line to be mayor. However, the ordinance also includes a “best interest” clause, under which the Council can give the position to the second-most senior Councilmember if it is deemed to be in the best interest of representing the city.
For the first time since its adoption, Councilman Ardy Kassakhian, Asatryan and outgoing Mayor Dan Brotman invoked the clause, declaring Najarian unfit for the mayorship and electing Asatryan instead.
As mayor, Asatryan becomes the city’s first Armenian American woman, first immigrant woman and the youngest woman to hold the position.
Brotman said that though he believes in sticking to agreements and that invoking the best interest clause is not good for the function of the City Council, he felt it was the right thing to do in these circumstances.
“I cannot support elevating Mr. Najarian to the mayorship because I think it would be even more harmful than invoking the out clause,” Brotman said during the meeting. “In fact, I believe it would be dangerous and cause long-term damage to the community.”
Referencing an interview Najarian did with California Insider last year, Brotman said his reason for denying Najarian the mayorship was the Councilman’s part in spreading misinformation related to what is being taught in the Glendale Unified School District.
Brotman cited segments from the interview in which Najarian alleged that GUSD was teaching students “the proper way” to have oral sex between members of the same sex, which is blatantly false. GUSD only teaches about the use of contraception to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases during sex ed (parents can opt their children out of this course), Brotman said.
Najarian also told California Insider that teachers approach students who are unsure of their gender identity and offer to help the students “change” by offering gender-affirming care, including hormone treatment, which is also false.
“The idea that a City Councilmember would spread these lies and then do nothing to correct it is deeply, deeply concerning,” Brotman said, adding that this is especially dangerous given the multitude of “threats and intimidation” directed toward GUSD faculty, LGBTQ+ students, parents and allies, and toward members of the Board of Education and fellow Councilmembers.
“What is to prevent Mr. Najarian from continuing to spread these lies and even give them greater effect because they carry the imprimatur of mayor? That is why I believe elevating Mr. Najarian to mayor is not in the best interest of the city,” Brotman said.
Meanwhile, Najarian called Brotman’s reference of the interview “a red herring.”
“It’s an attempt to divert the discussion in this mayor’s election. It’s a false reason. It’s a false outrage,” Najarian said, adding that he was merely explaining what some parents thought and why there had been controversy and protests surrounding GUSD Board meetings.
Brotman underscored that Najarian stated his claims as fact in the interview and made no attempt to clarify that these were not his own beliefs, either in the interview or after the fact publicly.
By inviting his lawyer and son, Alexander Najarian, to join him during the meeting, Ara Najarian implied that if his character was being put on trial, the mayoral selection should be treated as a court hearing. City Attorney Mike Garcia, however, disagreed, noting that the decision was simply a legislative proceeding and recommended Alexander Najarian be treated like any other member of the public.
Ara Najarian continued to speak at the meeting as though it were a hearing, asserting that his Constitutional right to due process was being violated because he was not given notice that certain Councilmembers were going to vote against him, adding that said Councilmembers were biased in their votes.
“Currently, this Council is depriving me of my property rights and my liberty and you’re tarnishing my name,” he said. “Anyone whose name is being tarnished has the right to due process.”
Calling the vote against him a “travesty,” “sham,” “coup,” “grave injustice” and “conspiracy” at various points throughout the meeting, Najarian also pointed to the ordinance, under which he has the claim to the mayorship. As for the best interest clause, Najarian said its language is too ambiguous and that Councilmembers have no real facts as to why he should not be mayor.
“Passing me over as mayor violates the spirit and the letter of our law and if this coup — this conspired and coordinated plan — is successful, then it will certainly go down as one of the darkest days in our city’s history,” Najarian said.
Najarian has previously served as mayor on four separate occasions during his tenure on the Council, most recently in 2019-2020.
Reiterating points she made in a March 26 Council meeting, Asatryan said she still believes that the current mayoral selection process is unfair because it allows for someone to be skipped over as mayor when serving their first Council term.
Asatryan publicly recalled a conversation she had with Najarian a few weeks ago, where, according to her, the Councilman asked her if she really felt the mayoral selection process was unfair or if she was simply “trying to stick it” to him.
“I have never tried ‘to stick it’ to anyone,” Asatryan said. “We all have 24 hours in a day. I don’t choose to spend my time destroying others. I prefer to spend that time building and uplifting.”
Councilwoman Paula Devine voted with Najarian, noting that by the books, he was the rightful mayor, imploring fellow Councilmembers to put aside their personal politics and agendas and vote for him as well.
Following the 3-2 vote which resulted in Asatryan taking the mayorship, both Najarian and Devine left the meeting and did not return for the remainder of the session.
While emotions and tensions ran high among supporters of both Najarian and Asatryan, much of the ruckus, including name-calling, booing and obscene gestures, in Tuesday’s meeting came from those backing Najarian, including members of his family.
As Asatryan gave her mayoral remarks centered around unity, representation and progress, she was met with taunting, snickering and shouts of “not my mayor,” however, those in support of the new mayor cheered and clapped as Brotman handed her the mayor’s gavel.
“Quite honestly, the moans and groans are defining as to why our community is divided,” Kassakhian said. “It seems as though we’ve all lost sight of what these chambers represent.”
A number of audience members were expelled from Council’s chambers after many warnings to cease their disruptive behavior.
Amid the chaos, Asatryan maintained composure throughout her speech, sharing her vision for a Glendale with improved government processes for diverse communities, more connectivity between officials and community members, and fine-tuned community outreach and engagement.
“For those who know me, you know that proper representation and giving a voice to marginalized communities is at the core of my values,” she said. “With a diverse constituency comes a greater responsibility to ensure that no one is left out because of language barriers, disabilities and inability to navigate our government structures.”
Many public commenters took to pitting Asatryan and Najarian against each other, taking digs at their characters and values. Some residents, like Tasha Jenkins, however, said they were “embarrassed and appalled” by the behavior of the crowd, though Jenkins said she believes the behavior and division in the community is influenced by its Councilmembers.
“We can build housing buildings. … We can get the homeless off the streets. We can put solar panels on top of our apartment buildings, but how do we bring connectivity to our city?” Jenkins asked the Council. “How do we do that when you’re divided? It’s clear that there is a division among you, so if we are to move this city forward, the mayor is an extension.”

First published in the April 6 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

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