A proposal to hire a consultant to gauge the likelihood that a possible tax measure would get voter approval was stuck in gridlock with a tied vote from the City Council on Tuesday until Councilman Frank Quintero put aside his philosophical beliefs against new taxes in order to ensure that the top-rated consultant would get the job.

Last month, council members approved moving forward with the hiring process to pay a consultant about $80,000 to look into whether voters would approve a proposed tax measure on the June ballot. The approval came via a split 3-2 vote, with Councilmen Quintero and Zareh Sinanyan dissenting.

But on Tuesday, when city staff presented the council with their top choice, Cerrell Associates, Councilwoman Laura Friedman, who had previously been on board with hiring a consultant, had to recuse herself because she had received a campaign donation from the firm’s chairman, Hal Dash.

Dash said he gave Friedman $100 in September, long before the city began considering hiring a tax consultant.

That left Councilman Ara Najarian and Mayor Dave Weaver voting to hire Cerrell Associates and Quintero and Sinanyan voting against. Stuck with a tied vote, the council could have picked another firm from the list of four provided by city staff, but instead, Quintero changed his vote.

“Looking at those firms, I’ll vote yes for Cerrell,” Quintero said. “Even though, philosophically, I’m against it.”

Los Angeles-based Cerrell Associates has worked for the city in the past and has a more than 95% success rate. Dash said his firm was involved in marketing the election measures that needed voter approval in 2004 for the Americana at Brand to be built.

There is still one more step before a tax measure can get on the June ballot. After Cerrell Associates collects survey data on voter sentiment about new taxes, the firm will present the information to the council, which will then decide whether to include any tax measures on the upcoming special election ballot.

The city may review several tax options, including general taxes or special ones that could be specified for library, paramedic, parks or public safety services. Although the city went through a massive restructuring in 2012, Glendale continues to climb out of financial distress, officials said.

Cerrell Associates plans to conduct community outreach along with survey research, according to a city report. If the council decides in February or March to put a tax measure on the ballot, then the city could ink another contract with the firm to market it to voters.

Officials have said that the failure of several measures to change city processes in April motivated them to hire a consultant before putting more measures on the upcoming ballot.

The consultant costs will be in addition to an estimated $300,000 to pay for the special election plus $20,000 per measure placed on the ballot.

The city must hold a special election in June to replace Quintero, who was appointed to a 14-month term in April when Rafi Manoukian was elected City Treasurer, effectively leaving his City Council seat open.


Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.


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