When Christine Cordon, Westminster’s first Vietnamese American city manager, took over the reins the future of the city was up in the air. 

Some residents hail Cordon as the only hope left to get Westminster back on track.

Her promotion from city clerk to manager came amid a leadership vacuum at city hall and at a time when Westminster faced a multi-million dollar deficit that threatened city services including the police department, parks, community centers and even weed abatement.

[Read: Is Westminster Dodging Bankruptcy?]

And she was brought in as the top staffer by a politically divided city council.

[Read: Westminster City Clerk to Become Interim City Manager Amid Leadership Vacuum]

On Wednesday, Cordon –  currently the youngest city manager in Orange Countycould get fired by some of those same elected officials. It’s listed on the 4 p.m. closed session part of the agenda.

It’s a move residents like Terry Rains say would kill the last remnants of hope they have for their city.

Rains, a local activist and watchdog, said in a Monday phone interview that the efforts to fire Cordon are completely political and have nothing to do with her performance.

“She mostly tells the city council what they need to hear, not what they want to hear and she will never cross a legal or ethical line for anybody,” she said.

“This is not going to be for cause. This is just going to be ‘we want to replace her with somebody that will be a ‘Yes man’ that will maybe cross those lines if they want them crossed and not tell them things they don’t want to hear and do their bidding.”

City council members are expected to discuss Cordon’s employment with the city behind closed doors at a 4 p.m. meeting.

Rains hopes to mobilize people to show up to the meeting and speak against firing Cordon.

Councilmembers Amy Phan West and Namquan Nguyen, critics of Cordon and members of the council majority, did not return a request for comment Monday. 

Mayor Charlie Chi Nguyen, likely the swing vote in the issue, refused to comment on the closed session meeting.

Council Member Carlos Manzo wrote in a text message Sunday that Cordon’s dismissal would be devastating to the city’s future and that since her appointment she has moved the city in a positive direction.

“As council members we should welcome honest and proper answers to our questions and ideas which she has always done,” he wrote.

“We should not be at odds with our City Manager if we don’t get the answers we want to hear.”

Councilwoman Kimberly Ho said in a Monday phone interview that she does not support firing Cordon and that the city manager has done nothing wrong.

Ho said that Phan West and Namquan Nguyen called for her dismissal.

“If she is fired they’ll be putting in place someone they can direct to do what they want to do,” she said. “This will lead to a lot of problems and a lot of lawsuits and a lack of checks and balances.”

Ho said Cordon has made efforts to bring in new revenue to the city including putting up billboards in the city.

The move to potentially fire Cordon comes after she had a tense exchange with council members amid a debate on allowing LED billboards to go up in the city as a way to get extra cash as Westminster struggles to stay afloat financially.

Council members at a meeting in May raised transparency and conflict of interest concerns with selecting and hiring Branded Cities, a billboard company, to maintain and operate the signs.

Cordon shot back and publicly rebuked the city council and defended the process to select Branded Cities as transparent.

“I find it insulting,” she said. “If you would like to be involved behind the scenes, with the process, writing the process, picking out the consultants, please, by all means we have plenty of city jobs available.”

[Read: Will Hard Financial Straits Turn Westminster Into A City of Lights?]

Cordon did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Rains also said that Cordon actually has a plan for the city and getting its finances in order, prioritized transparency and that the city manager was just honored as a 2023 Woman of Distinction by Congresswoman Michelle Steele.

“The residents will go back in the dark. We won’t know anything that’s going on,” Rains said.

In 2016, Cordon was hired to work at Westminster’s city clerk’s office under former City Clerk Amanda Jensen. 

Jensen was shot dead a year later in Seal Beach by former Los Alamitos Police Captain Rick Moore, who killed himself, according to the city website.

In 2018, Cordon became the city clerk.

By 2021, she was appointed as interim city manager.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.


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