The City of Westminster, in an official statement, denounced Councilman Tai Do over his recent remarks on the state of city politics, following the approval of a controversial new policy that gives the dais’ majority faction more control over agenda-setting at meetings.
The statement, approved for release at a Wednesday, June 19, special meeting by council members Kimberly Ho, Charlie Nguyen and Mayor Tri Ta, criticizes Do over posts he made to his official Facebook page on June 12, reading: “Westminster is officially now Ho Chi Minh City brought to you by Tri Ta, Kimberly Ho, and Chi (Charlie) Nguyen.
“The Westminster Council has never discussed or thought of changing the name of the ‘All American City’ (Westminster) into any unacceptable communist city,” the statement, posted to the city website June 21, reads.
Do, at the June 19 meeting, voted against the press release. His only other ally on the dais, Councilman Sergio Contreras, was absent.
Ho Chi Minh City, previously named Saigon, is a major city in south Vietnam, and is named after the late Communist revolutionary leader. During the Vietnam War, Saigon was the capital of South Vietnam.
Westminster’s official statement also accuses Do of trying to “maliciously slander” fellow council members amid political disarray at City Hall over the last few months.
Ta, who called the special meeting, said Do’s post caused confusion and unease among the city’s major Vietnamese community over whether the city was actually changing its name.
“In the last several days, I received a lot of calls regarding (Do’s post),” Ta said during the meeting, adding that the meeting wasn’t called to “censor” another council member.
Ho described Do’s Facebook post as “highly inflammatory,” accusing him of doing “irreversible damage” on the city’s reputation as “anti-communist.”
“Councilman Do has crossed the line,” she said. “If we don’t properly condemn this conduct, we are saying we stand with him and approve of his actions. We know that the Vietnamese community (is) sensitive to the communist flag.”
Do wrote the Facebook post after a June 12 council meeting ended with the adoption of a highly-controversial new policy that bars anyone on the dais from placing an item on a future public meeting agenda without the approval of three council members.
Contreras and Do — who have clashed for months with the Council’s majority faction by pushing for public discussions around ethical reform and transparency at a City Hall that faces many corruption allegations — have been against the policy, describing it as “a dictatorship item.”
Multiple people inside City Hall have said the new policy could shut Do and Contreras out of introducing new policies that Ho, Nguyen and Ta don’t like.
Do said his political opponents are overreacting to the post, which his supporters among the public, frequently shouting from the audience, described as “sarcasm.”
“You call this sarcasm?” Councilman Charlie Nguyen said of Do’s remarks, when at one point during the meeting members of the public shouted over him and others on the dais. “This is not sarcasm. It’s very serious.”
Do likened the special meeting to a “trial” for “exercising my freedom of speech.”
He also accused majority faction council members of making him the subject of scrutiny in an attempt to deflect attention from their approval of the agenda-setting policy.
The meeting drew over 20 public speakers, some of them supporting Ho, Nguyen and Ta.
Resident and former planning commissioner Tony Bui said that Do, as a city official, is allowed to say whatever he wants, “as long as it does not hurt a majority of the people.”
“This is the lesson you have to learn, Mr. Tai Do,” Bui said, accusing Do of a misinformation campaign. “You tried to create confusion among” residents.
Former Councilwoman and Mayor Margie Rice took the podium to criticize each member of the majority faction, but zeroed in on Ho.
“Kimberly … I did not vote for you and I will never vote for you. I think you say one thing and you do another,” Rice said, garnering applause from Do’s supporters. “You do not belong on this council. You do not represent the people of Westminster.”
Rice turned to Do, adding: “I didn’t vote for you (Tai), but I will in the future.”
Rice was among numerous city officials named in a 2016 corruption complaint against the city by former police chief Kevin Baker.
Do has been one of the most outspoken advocates for ethical reform at City Hall, and drew many of his concerns from Baker’s memo.
Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC intern. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @photherecord.