No Altadena Library Board Election This Year

The three incumbents up for reelection will be reappointed by the LA County Board of Supervisors, saving the Altadena Library District at least $135,000

By Justin Chapman, Altadena Patch, 8/25/2011

Although three members' terms of the Board of Trustees expire in December, there will be no election held on November 8 because only the three incumbents filed to run.
Board President David Datz and Board members Thomas Hubbard and Gwendolyn McMullins have all filed to run for office, and in lieu of any challengers, will be reappointed to the positions, according to Eileen Shea of the Los Angeles County Registrar. That will save the district the $135,000 that an election would cost.
Though only the three incumbents finished final papers to run for the office, two challengers went through the initial steps and filed their names with the Registrar, though ultimately did not complete the process, according to county records.
Armen Sarkissian, one of those would-be challengers, said he decided not to go forward with the campaign after a conversation with Datz, who would have been one of his opponents in the race. 
Datz told Patch that he contacted both potential candidates and explained what would be required of them, how much of a time commitment it is, and the fact that an election would cost the library district $135,000 or more.
That would be about 5 percent of the district's operating budget of roughly $2.3 million, though according to Datz the board continues to save money in their budget for elections.
"I just wanted (Alene Terzian and Sarkissian) to know all the facts," Datz said. "I didn't try to influence their decision. I wanted to explain to them the commitment involved, what they'd be expected to do, and that they should be aware that it's a substantial amount of money to run this election. People have the right to run if they want to, I just gave them information."
Datz added that he approached Terzian and Sarkissian with the intention of letting them know what they were getting themselves into. Although he did not speak to Terzian on the phone or in person, he did send her an email laying out all the facts and received a response indicating that she would not be running due to time commitments.

Not Directly Asked Not to Run
Terzian could not be reached for comment, but Sarkissian told Patch that he spoke with Datz on the phone and met with him in person. He said Datz never specifically tried to discourage him from running, but he did explain the complications involved if he did run.
"I was never directly asked not to run," said Sarkissian. "I was given information about the background of the board, how time consuming being on the board is, and how much an election would cost the library district. He did specifically tell me, 'I'm not trying to tell you not to run for election, but x, y, and z.'"
The high cost of holding an election was not the only reason Sarkissian decided not to run. He said he felt it would be an uphill challenge if he did find something that wasn't being handled efficiently because the other four members who have been entrenched on the board for years might not have the same perspective as him.
"If I'm the new person I think it would be an uphill battle to try to get something accomplished," he said. "I didn't want to run if I didn't feel I would be effective."

An Unpublicized Election
Although Sarkissian said he did not feel Datz's call was inappropriate, he does take issue with the fact that this election was not posted in the Altadena libraries or publicized in an adequate way (Altadena Patch ran an on the election, but just shortly before the filing deadline)
"The public has no idea about any of this, and that I have a problem with," he said. "I don't know if there are regulations to make sure if this election is being run properly, but how are people supposed to know how to run or vote if it's not publicized?"
The district, which is independent from the county's library system, holds staggered elections every two years as long as there is a challenger. In 2009 there was also not an election because there were no challengers, though there was an election in 2007.  The board members do not receive any pay for their service. 
Datz said the lack of public information about the election was "absolutely not" based on the intention to discourage Altadenans from running for the board. He cited examples of people who ran in the past not knowing how much time it takes to be on the board who later dropped out because it was not what they expected.
"Mr. Sarkissian is right, though," Datz said. "I think the board could post things better and we could put more things out about the election we'll have two years from now."
Still, Datz added, the public should also be able to "find these things out for themselves."
"It's not hard; they can go to the website to get information," Datz said.
He added that the board doesn't do anything in secret. It's a public agency and anyone is invited and encouraged to attend board meetings, which are held on the fourth Monday of every month at 5 p.m. in the Altadena Library Community Room.