Westminster Petitions to Recall Council Majority Qualify for Election

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

From left: Westminster Mayor Tri Ta, Councilwoman Kimberly Ho and Councilman Charlie Nguyen at a March 2019 City Council meeting.

After a year of political disarray at City Hall, it seems a recall election will decide the fate of the Westminster City Council’s majority faction.

Council members Kimberly Ho, Charlie Nguyen, and Mayor Tri Ta — who comprise a majority voting bloc dubbed by critics as “the Gang of Three” for frequently clashing with minority council members over ethics and power at City Hall — are now officially at risk of being unseated.

Recall petitions for all three council members began circulating over the summer under an effort by political group Westminster United, which consists of disgruntled residents who claim the majority has consolidated a worrisome amount of power over city affairs, among other issues.

Neal Kelley, head of the Orange County Registrar of Voters, on Monday certified those recall petitions under state law, said Westminster City Clerk Christine Cordon on Friday.

Ta and Nguyen in a statement said the Council, at their next meeting on Jan. 8, is expected to set an election date.

From there, the city would have to hold the election no less than 88 or more than 125 days after that meeting, meaning it won’t coincide with the March 2020 primary and will be its own special election.

“We will ask our city council colleagues to set for an early election date, within the time frame allowed by state law, so that the residents of Westminster may have the earliest opportunity to reject this misguided recall effort,” Ta and Nguyen’s statement reads.

It continues: “With this recall election, our critics have caused deep political division and disharmony in Westminster, forcing the city to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars to deal with this recall, money that could be used for seniors’ programs or youth activities.”

The statement calls proponents for the majority’s recall “misguided” and “nothing more than a political cabal comprised of a small group of opponents seeking power at City Hall when they have miserably failed at the polls in the November 2018 election.”

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

David Johnson, one of Westminster United’s head organizers.

It’s unclear still who in the city will step up as the replacement candidates. One vocal opposition leader, David Johnson, has publicly distanced himself from the idea of him as a candidate but has said he’ll run if no one else does.

City Councilman Tai Do, who with Councilman Sergio Contreras has vocally opposed the majority on a number of issues at a number of meetings, welcomed the news in a Friday Facebook post.

“Let this be a reminder for all of us that we are living in America, where we are free to think what we want and say what we think to worship according to what we believe,” his post reads. “To choose our leaders and yes to criticize them without punishments.”

Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC reporting fellow. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @photherecord.