Westminster City Manager Christine Cordon, who has garnered a strong wave of support from residents and city employees, will continue in her role after intense public pressure to stop her from being fired.
City council members voted 3-2 to against firing Cordon after roughly 5 hours of deliberation behind closed doors and about three hours of public comments – all of which unanimously supported keeping Cordon as the city manager.
City Attorney Christian Bettenhausen did not disclose the council votes.
But he said Councilmembers Carlos Manzo and Kimberly Ho made a closed door motion against firing Cordon.
Members of VietRISE, a community group based in OC’s Little Saigon, defended Cordon’s job, hailing her as a leader who is helping get the city on track and worried her dismissal would impact ongoing projects.
They also worried recruiting a new city manager would be a timely and costly process.
“Dismissing a key staff manager responsible for the city’s stability during a period of recovery is a reckless authoritarian decision,” said Tracy La, co-founder and executive director of the group.
“Westminster deserves better and we need better leadership that puts the well being of the people first.”
The vote to keep Cordon – which stretched into early Thursday morning – came after Councilmembers Amy Phan West and Namquan Nyugen called for a discussion on potentially firing the city manager at the Wednesday meeting.
West and Nguyen tried to postpone a discussion on potentially firing her, but it failed to get support from the rest of the council.
Kyle Seasock, the president of the Westminster Police Officer Association, also defended Cordon and said her leadership has made a positive impact on residents and employees during a time of uncertainty.
“The stability we have in management positions and department heads throughout the city has made working collectively as a team seamless. We can attribute this to our city manager,” he said.
Cordon made her way to Westminster’s top executive position after starting to work in the city clerk’s office under former City Clerk Amanda Jensen in 2016.
One year later, her boss was shot and killed in Seal Beach by former Los Alamitos Police Captain Rick Moore.
While pregnant, she applied to take over the role and was hired in 2018.
Three years later she was promoted to interim city manager.
She took over the reins at city hall as the first Vietnamese American city manager at a time of uncertainty in Westminster – a working class town with a multimillion dollar deficit hanging overhead, political infighting on the dais and years of turnover in the highest city position.
Since then, Cordon implemented the city’s first strategic plan, has been recognized as a woman of distinction by Congresswoman Michelle Steele and was recognized by the OC Register as one the county’s most influential people in 2022.
For nearly 3 hours on Wednesday, community activists, city employees and residents – some of whom spoke in Vietnamese – implored their elected officials not to get rid of Cordon.
They say Cordon is guiding Westminster forward with ideas to bring in new tax revenue.
Others said trust in local government would be shattered if Cordon was fired.
Public comment went on for so long that city council members had to push back their closed session meeting discussion on firing Cordon. It carried on shortly after officials started their regular open session meeting.
Not a single person spoke in favor of Cordon’s dismissal.
Two elected city officials also defended Cordon ahead of the meeting.
City council members Ho and Manzo, along with residents, condemned the move to remove Cordon as political and have called it an effort to replace her with a city manager who will act as “yes man” for the council majority.
Multiple city employees, including Westminster Municipal Employee Association leaders, came out on Wednesday to defend their boss who they say has boosted employee morale
Vincent Huante, vice president of the Association and a public works supervisor, said he has served under four city managers in the past 9 years and Cordon was the only transparent one.
“September 22, 2021 was the start of a new Westminster, a Westminster that needed a new foundation. That foundation started with Christine Cordon,” Huante said.
Employees also said she has become a bedrock to a top city position that has faced instability and turnover in leadership for years.
Some residents worried that firing Cordon would lead to the departure of city staffers.
Resident Tom Hogan said Westminster citizens have invested their faith and hope in Cordon and have yet to be disappointed. He called the effort to get rid of her an “insidious power grab.”
“Christine Corden’s dismissal will serve only to hasten our plans toward ruin and bankruptcy will destroy whatever dreams we have. This city will be left a shattered shell of itself,” he said.
“No services. No security. No hope.”
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
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