I wrote last Thursday in Political and Mob Rule Trumps Policy and Procedure in Westminster about the unusual action taken by the City Council of Westminster to revise a permit issued to a group of 38 entities to conduct a memorial ceremony in recognition of the 35th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975.
Orange County First District Supervisor Janet Nguyen’s office had requested the “Intent to Meet” permit on August 26, 2009. The permit application indicated an estimated attendance of 300 people and was subsequently granted by the city.
Supervisor Nguyen’s office then went about gathering community groups to participate in the event. Ultimately, 37 other groups joined together to host a Black April Memorial Event on Friday evening April 30, 2010.
On January 27, 2010 Mr. Timothy Chi Ngo requested a permit on behalf of the Vietnamese-American Community of Southern California to hold an event to recognize Black April on Saturday May 1, 2010. The application indicated an estimated attendance of a maximum of 500 people.
On February 26, 2010 Mr. Lac Tan Nguyen submitted a revised application to supersede the one submitted by Mr. Ngo changing the event date and time to directly conflict with the permit already issued to the coalition of groups lead by Supervisor Nguyen.
The applications submitted by Mr. Ngo and Mr. Nguyen stated that “on April 30th every year since 1975 the Vietnamese American in Southern California gathering together to pay tribute to the fallen people & soldiers due to the fall of the Republic of South Vietnam on April 30, 1975.”
For some reason, the mainstream media picked up on this wording, contorted it a bit, and started spreading the false claim that the organization “Vietnamese-American Community of Southern California” had conducted the official community recognition of this event every year in Westminster.
That is quite simply, false.
City records show that multiple organizations have produced memorial recognition events on or about April 30th over the past six years. These events have not always occurred on April 30th. In fact, most have happened on either a Saturday or Sunday to garner the greatest number of participants. The last event hosted by the Vietnamese-American Community of Southern California was two years ago on Saturday, April 26, 2008. The last time a memorial was hosted on April 30th was in 2004. That event was hosted by the Union of Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California.
Here is the list:
Past Organizers for the Black April
2009 – 2004
2009- Saturday, April 25, 2009 – Phan Boi Chau Youth for Democracy
2008 – Saturday, April 26, 2008 – Vietnamese American Community of Southern California and Sunday, April 27, 2008 – Vietnam War Memorial Committee
2007 – Saturday, April 28, 2007 – The Union of Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California
2006 – Saturday, April 29, 2006 – The Union of Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California
2005 – Saturday, April 30, 2005 – Can’t locate any organization who organized this event for 2005
2004 – Friday, April 30, 2004 – Union of Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California
The bottom line here is that the organization called Vietnamese-American Community of Southern California initially picked the weekend date closest to April 30th for the event they proposed which was Saturday, May 1st.
Then upon learning that a coalition of community groups lead by Supervisor Nguyen had scheduled an event on Friday, April 30ththe group changed their plans and challenged the right of Nguyen’s coalition to hold an event. In effect, they picked a fight that they did not need to pick.
The city tried to get the parties to meet and reach a compromise. Based upon the reports of staff and Mayor Rice at the April 21st meeting, the coalition led by Supervisor Nguyen had agreed to compromise after compromise, including removing herself from the lead roll in the event ceremonies other than what protocol would usually dictate for elected officials based upon their legislative rank. The ultimate sticking point came down to who would be allowed to speak first.
Now enter the majority of the Westminster City Council made up of Vietnamese members all aligned with Supervisor Nguyen’s long-time rival Assemblyman Van Tran. On or about March 29th a press statement drafted by Council member Tyler Diep, was released to the Vietnamese media on behalf of the three Vietnamese members of the City Council, Tyler Diep, Andy Quach, and Tri Ta in their official capacity as members of the City Council. The statement was published in at least two publications that I have been able to find, Nguoi Viet and Viet Herald.
In the statement (Translated) these three members of the Council clearly indicate that they have discussed the matter amongst themselves and reached several conclusions in concert. Their letter indicates a subtle bias that if you were not looking for it you might not notice it.
As you may know, this Black April Event is facing challenges due to the disagreement on the date, time and location of the event. One side, organized by some associations, organizations; the other side by Supervisor Janet Nguyen. Both sides chose the same date and location on April 30, 2010 at the Westminster War Memorial.
It is disingenuous, in addition to demonstrating bias, to claim that the applicants opposing the application of the coalition led by Supervisor Nguyen is a group of associations and organizations, while portraying the “other side” as solely Janet Nguyen.
But the statement goes on to say:
Our point of view is that Black April is a sad event for our whole community; therefore, the commemoration must include all the voice of the Vietnamese refugees. Thus, the Black April commemoration will become the strength and the voice of the Vietnamese Overseas Community once the community can work together, unifying in harmony.
To mark the 35th Black April, our community cannot go without a solemn ceremony at the Westminster War Memorial on April 30th with the participation of all members of our Community in the Little Saigon.
As Vietnamese City Council members, we do not want Westminster to be in the position to have to take sides. Please work together so we can have a worthy Black April commemorate in a unifying spirit and to demonstrate our determination to fight against the Communist tyranny.
So here is the problem. The Brown Act states the following regarding meetings outside the view of the public.
54952.2. (a) As used in this chapter, “meeting” means any congregation of a majority of the members of a legislative body at the same time and location, including teleconference location as permitted by Section 54953, to hear, discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body.
(b) (1) A majority of the members of a legislative body shall not, outside a meeting authorized by this chapter, use a series of communications of any kind, directly or through intermediaries, to discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item of business that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body.
The statement issued by the majority of the council members, a few days after the matter was presented to the council at the March 24, 2010 meeting, clearly indicates that the majority of the City Council of Westminster met at some point prior to the issuance of this statement before any hearing by the City Council and reached a series of conclusions regarding the two competing event applications, whose disagreements would come before them to decide. These three members indicate in their statement that they believe that the application presented by the Vietnamese-American Community of Southern California represents a true community coalition and that the application acquired by Supervisor Nguyen on behalf of a coalition was in fact for her benefit alone.
It can therefore be of no surprise that this same majority reached the same conclusion in revising the permit issued to the coalition led by Supervisor Nguyen to a different time, and issuing a permit for the time originally granted to Nguyen’s coalition to the Vietnamese-American Community of Southern California. The Council majority gave no reason why the permit issued to Nguyen’s coalition should be revised. That group had clearly tried to compromise, but rightly was unwilling to turn over control to the Vietnamese-American Community of Southern California. They had after all, acquired their permit five months earlier and had invited all groups in the community to participate in the memorial ceremonies they were planning. The decision to revise a permit time, and give the original time to a competing applicant violates all rule of due process and free and open access to public facilities.
This is what I meant last week when I raised the concern over a city permit process being corrupted by politics. No one group has the right to claim ownership of community recognition of the Black April memorial. It is not proper for the city council to have taken sides in a conflict that never should have occurred. The appropriate compromise would have been to issue permits to the parties on the dates and times initially applied for.
Both the Orange County Register and LA Times have the resources to do the investigation of facts that I have outlined here.
What is disturbing, in addition to the unprecedented action by the city council and the violations of the Brown Act by the council majority that took the action, is the fact that the major news publications failed to mention any of this, and communicated to their readers misleading and false information regarding the matter.