Sunday, July 18, 2010

Minh Duong vs. Madison Nguyen, Round 1

For two straight weeks, our mailbox was flooded with email from Charlie Ly and Tuong Pham about the San Jose City Election Commission meeting on July 14 to determine whether candidate for city council Minh Duong had violated city campaign disclosure for his 2008 campaign. The complaint was filed by District 8 resident Robert Sandoval, a Madison Nguyen supporter.

The main theme of the multiple emails to media as well as many Vietnamese-American email groups was that Minh Duong violated the law and if convicted, he would unequivocally be disqualified from the 2010 election.

In the interest of the Vietnamese-American community that has been bombarded with campaign misinformation,  LSI attended the hearing.  The complaint was about Minh Duong’s failure to disclose an unpaid bill to his consultant during his 2008 campaign for city council. The law requires contributions and expenditures to be documented. The unpaid bill is currently a subject of a civil lawsuit. Duong claimed that the bill was for service unrendered and refused to pay.

The hearing was attended by a handful of people, mostly by supporters of Madison Nguyen. Minh Duong was there by himself along with his lawyer Michael Luu.

In picture, back rowCharlie Ly, unnamed supporter of Madison Nguyen, Robert Sandoval, unnamed supporter of Madison Nguyen , an unidentified man.  Front row - Lam van Sang, Tuong Pham and Tracy Siepel.

Usually this type of hearing would not get the attention of the Mercury News, so it must be a slow summer to see Tracy Siepel, a business reporter from the Merc doing the coverage. According to a city hall reporter at the Merc, Charlie Ly, who lives in San Bruno, had sent emails about the case and other innuendos about Duong to the Merc and demanded an investigative article. It was not a surprise to see Lam van Sang, a computer engineer by trade, to be at the hearing. Sang is known for his provocative writing for V-Times.  It was in his article titled “The Past History of Minh Duong” before the primary that he emphasized that Minh Duong would be disqualified from the election if he was found to violate the disclosing rules.

Robert Sandoval told the commission that he has been a supporter of Madison Nguyen for the last 6 years. When asked by Commissioner Shepard what prompted him to file the complaint, Sandoval gave a lengthy answer. According to him, he was surfing the Net and noticed a lawsuit brought by Ron Wong (President of ICG) against Minh Duong. Being a “concerned citizen” living in District 8, he promptly brought it to the attention of  City Clerk Lee Price to see if Minh Duong could be disqualified as a candidate not having good moral character. Next, he brought the case to the attention of Mayor Chuck Reed. Sandoval said that the Mayor thought the lawsuit has merit and recommended City Attorney Rick Doyle to file the complaint with the Election Commission to disqualify Minh Duong. Still according to Sandoval, he then filed the comnplaint and personally followed up with the lawyer, Mike Moye, who was responsible for the investigation on behalf of the Election Commission. His reason was to "assist so that the investigation can be successful”

After two hours of deliberation, the Election Commission unanimously agreed that the original 460 form filed in June 2008 did not accurately reflect the actual debt because it is in dispute. Therefore it should have being amended. Second, Minh Duong Campaign Committee should have reflected the new amendment before the termination paper was filed in 2009. The commission felt that, as quoted by Commissioner Shepard: "Minh Duong should have gone to paper filing school for bad reporting or paperwork error, not anything more sinister".

In the end, the commission fined Minh Duong for $500 for the two violations of incorrect filing of form 460 and termination without new amendment.

The Election Commission, recognizing that there are members of the press in the room, made it clear that this should not be a  negative reflection on the current 2010 campaign. They insisted for the record as well as on the final resolution that this complaint has heavy political overtone to influence the upcoming campaign runoff between Minh Duong and Madison Nguyen.

I would like to make it clear that I don't like the timing of this, and I think there was a motivation behind it," said commission Chairman Fred de Funiak.

Commissioner Shepard added, “This is simply a case of paperwork error and should not be impugned on the integrity of the candidate.”

In addition, to clarify the rumor floating by Madison Nguyen's supporters to the media,  Lee Price said that Minh Duong cannot be disqualifed in the 2010 election.

It was noted that during the deliberation, Charlie Ly would make disgruntled gestures and garbled comments every time any commission made a favorable remark about Minh Duong as a recipient of political dirty play. Chairman Fred de Funiak finally had enough and told him to either stop or leave the room permanently.

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Unofficial Election Results

 San Jose City Council, D7   Precincts Reporting:  100% Tam Nguyen                        31.85%       2,275  Maya Esparza             ...