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Online comments come back to haunt newly elected Glendale councilman

April 17, 2013
  • Newly elected City Councilman Zareh Sinanyan, seen here as a candidate, defends his character at a meeting in March.
Newly elected City Councilman Zareh Sinanyan, seen here… (Cheryl A. Guerrero…)


The hoopla over hateful online comments that were attributed to — and never denied by — newly minted Councilman Zareh Sinanyan was revived at his first meeting Tuesday with the help of someone who knows a thing or two about the power and influence of the Internet.

Last month, Sinanyan lost multiple high-profile endorsements — from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) to both Los Angeles mayoral candidates — when dozens of vulgar and threatening comments made under his name on YouTube, Facebook and other websites came to light.

Sinanyan never expressly denied being the author of the disparaging comments — which mostly referred to Armenia’s geopolitical enemies, but also gays, Muslims and women — saying only that they do not reflect his character.

Sarah Aujero, the woman who created a Twitter account for Meatball — the famed black bear that repeatedly visited Glendale neighborhoods to snack on trash and other items, including Costco meatballs — addressed the issue with a handful of other speakers at the council meeting Tuesday. She said she was disgusted by the comments and condemned Sinanyan for skirting the issue.

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“If anyone is accused of something this heinous they would work tirelessly to clear their good name or give a clear denial, or if they had done it, had the courage to own up to the actions or provide an apology,” said Aujero, whose popular Twitter account — at roughly 32,000 followers strong — played a role in saving Meatball’s life.

“Please take it from me,” she added, “the voice of Meatball, the Glendale bear, online comments can have a powerful effect on the community and that can sometimes linger like the smell of garbage on a hot summer day.”

With a furrowed brow, Sinanyan stayed tight-lipped during the heated proceeding.

“My actions will speak for themselves,” he said afterward, refusing to confirm or deny his connection to the comments.

The YouTube comments, which have been deleted, led back to a profile under the username “gazanutyun,” but at one point the profile was under Sinanyan's full name, according to a Google feature that captures historic snapshots of webpages.

In addition to the political heat he felt on the campaign trail, Sinanyan for a time appeared at risk of losing his seat on a city commission, but the City Council proposal failed after his public reckoning in council chambers just weeks before the election.

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