This tumultuous year has proven the essential nature of nonpartisan local news. Every day we bring you news critical to staying informed and active in the community. Join us with a tax-deductible donation.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office this week announced that prosecutors did not find sufficient evidence to back up allegations that county Supervisor Andrew Do lied when running for office about living within the district he represents.
“We find that the vast majority of the evidence corroborates, rather than contradicts, Supervisor’s Do’s assertion that the Westminster address is his legal residence,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Brock Zimmon wrote in a letter released Monday.
“As such, Do was eligible to run for, and is eligible to retain, the First District seat on the [county] board of supervisors.”
(Click here to read the DA’s letter clearing Do)
The investigation stemmed from a February complaint by Tony Flores, a Garden Grove resident who lost a City Council election to Do in 2008.
California election law requires local candidates to live in the district they seek to represent. A person can only legally vote from one domicile, or a place where one intends to remain and return after an absence.
It is considered election fraud – punishable by up to three years in prison – for anyone running for public office to lie about their residency. And once in office, living somewhere other than the area they represent could lead to an elected official being removed from office.
When Do filed paperwork to run for the First District supervisor seat last December, he listed a Westminster address within the district as his residence.
But Flores questioned whether he was instead living at a home in North Tustin (also known as unincorporated Santa Ana) located about 2.5 miles outside the First District he represents as a supervisor.
Flores complained to the DA’s office, providing documents that he said supported his suspicions.
Among them is a property tax bill for the North Tustin home showing that details about it are protected under a state law that applies to homes of elected officials. Another record listed Do’s cell phone as being registered to the North Tustin address as of last December.
Do and his wife, Superior Court Judge Cheri Pham, currently own both homes. They bought the North Tustin home in 2002, and in preparation for Do’s run for supervisor, purchased the Westminster home in July 2014.
In their investigation, DA officials said they gathered a variety of records related to Do’s residency, which support his claims of living at the Westminster home.
While Do’s voter registration was listed at the North Tustin home until July 2014, he changed it to the Westminster address that month, where it’s remained ever since, according to the DA’s letter.
A DA investigator also spoke with five neighbors near the Westminster home. None of them “were overly familiar with Supervisor Do,” but most had seen him at the house before, according to the letter.
In a phone conversation this July with a DA investigator, Do said he lived at the Westminster home and followed up by sending three recent utility bills addressed to him at that address.
There are two facts that might contradict Do’s claims of living in Westminster, according to the DA’s office.
Do and his wife have a car that’s still registered at the North Tustin home, despite being in that car during a traffic accident this March, after Do took office. And Do’s wife hasn’t changed her voter registration address, which is still listed at the North Tustin home.
But on the whole, the DA’s special prosecutions unit – headed by Assistant District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh – determined that no charges are warranted, given that they’d have to show “that the candidate’s stated intent that a particular place be their domicile is a lie.”
And in cases where it’s ambiguous whether someone should hold public office, the DA’s office says they are required to side “in favor of eligibility rather than disqualification.”
In a statement reacting to the news, Do said the allegations had no merit and that he’s stayed focused on getting results for his constituents.
“Orange County residents are tired of political games, like this politically motivated and baseless complaint,” he said in the statement.
Meanwhile, Flores said he thinks the DA’s office overlooked certain evidence.
While investigators were given utility bills at the Westminster home, they should have gotten the utility bills for Do’s North Tustin property as well as his phone bills, he said.
“I don’t understand how an experienced investigator would not follow up on that,” said Flores, a former police officer.
They also should have checked whether Do and his wife opted to keep their car registration at the North Tustin home when they paid their most recent annual fees, he said.
When asked about the North Tustin utility bills, DA spokeswoman Roxi Fyad declined to comment beyond what’s in the letter.