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Fuentes plans a run for council seat

Former zoning administrator says public input helped with the decision.

June 13, 2012|By Mark Kellam, mark.kellam@latimes.com
  • Edith Fuentes is eyeing a seat on the Glendale City Council. Fuentes is a former zoning administrator for the city.
Edith Fuentes is eyeing a seat on the Glendale City Council.… (Tim Berger / Staff…)

Glendale's former top zoning administrator who recently settled claims of discrimination  against the city is throwing her hat in the ring for a seat on the City Council next year.

The move could put her above the boss she claims demoted her because of her gender and ethnicity.

If elected, Edith Fuentes, a native of the Philippines, would be the first Asian American to serve on the council, which will have three seats up for election in April.

Council members Laura Friedman and Ara Najarian will be up for reelection. Mayor Frank Quintero has said he does not plan to run to keep his seat.

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For the Record, 12:40 p.m. June 14: A reference to Fuentes' most recent claim against the city was incorrect. It was an adminstrative appeal.

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Fuentes said she decided to enter the race so early in the season after community members asked her to run.

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“They were saying, ‘We need you back,'” Fuentes said. “I really would love to continue working and serving the community, but in a different capacity.”

In September, she was demoted from planning administrator to planner, with a cut in salary of almost 30%.

In hearings before the Civil Service Commission, city officials said Fuentes was demoted because of poor job performance, including a lack of basic understanding of permit requirements and holding one-on-one meetings with applicants.

But Fuentes said that in addition to being tied to ethnic and gender discrimination, her demotion may have been in retaliation for a successful lawsuit she filed in 2000 in which she claimed her boss harassed her based on her background. As part of a settlement in that case, Fuentes received a public apology from city officials.

She did not ask for financial damages, but the city paid her attorney's fees.

In her most recent settlement, Fuentes, who had worked for the city for 19 years, agreed to retire in September — when she turns 62 — and is on unpaid administrative leave until then. She also received a $200,000 payment and is allowed to retire at her highest salary level.

If her council campaign proves successful, she'd be at the top of the food chain at City Hall and will have to work with her former supervisor, Community Development Director Hassan Haghani. That's a role she would have no difficulty filling, she said.

“I'm the kind of person that when something is done and over, I move on,” Fuentes said. “I don't have any hard feelings or animosity.”

She initially thought about taking on small consulting jobs in planning or architecture post-retirement, but a recent trip to the Philippines to see her mother helped sway her decision to mount a City Council campaign.

“[My mother] said, ‘If you are running because of some negative thinking, I will tell you right now, don't do it,'” Fuentes said.

Fuentes has been a longtime member of Soroptimists International of Glendale and the local Filipino American Business Assn., which was expected to endorse her this week during a Philippine Independence Day celebration.

“I look at this as the beginning of a new challenge,” Fuentes said. “Whatever I do, I give it my best.”

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