Elk Grove City Council to ask Sacramento County Grand Jury to investigate allegations against Mayor Steve Ly

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After hearing close to 75 public speakers who were limited to one rather than the normal three minutes of comment time, the Elk Grove City council decided against censuring Mayor Steve Ly following the requests of several women who have accused him and associates of harassments and threats. Instead, they will ask the Sacramento County Grand Jury to investigate the allegations. 

The 4 - 0 decision with Mr. Ly abstaining came after nearly three hours of public comment and city council deliberations. The move to censure Ly was led by Elk Grove Unified School District Trustees Bobbie Singh-Allen and Nancy Chaires-Espinoza, Cosumnes Community Services District Director Jaclyn Moreno, and Linda Vue, Ly's 2016 mayoral campaign manager.

All four have accused Ly and his associates of using harassment and threats against themselves and other women in the community to advance his political agenda. In response to the ongoing controversy, at their July 22 meeting, the Elk Grove City Council put the matter on last night's agenda, and following that, Singh-Allen decided to challenge Ly in this November's mayoral election.

After hearing the public comments, most of which were in support of Ly, the council deliberations opened with Councilmember Stephanie Nguyen taking the lead. As she did at the July 22 meeting, Nguyen offered several suggestions for Ly to alleviate the situation, which has put the city council in unchartered political waters.

Among Nguyen's suggestions was that the matter should be referred to the Sacramento County Grand Jury for an impartial investigation. She also noted that a censure was a one-time event that does not necessarily address the underlying problem.

"A censure-ship to me is a one and done deal, other than being a formal reprimand, there is nothing in place to correct these continued actions or show that a person is committed to changing these behaviors," Nguyen said. "And what I want to see, Mr. Mayor, I want to see that you are committed to change, that you are going to fix this." 

Nguyen also asked Ly if he had been in contact with the four women to resolve this matter. Ly said he had done so, and Nguyen offered to mediate and facilitate meetings with the individuals and said he should send formal letters of apologies and take cultural sensitivity training. 

"What I am seeing is there is a lack of sensitively for some women," Nguyen said.

Nguyen also responded to a request from Moreno that the city should provide more resources for women and girls to address harassment. Nguyen noted there are already many organizations that offer those services.

"I want to caution us also on doing this citywide committee for women and girls because we are now excluding anyone that is possibly an LGBTQ class, and where do they fit in this if we make it just women and girls," she added.

Vice Mayor Steve Detrick and Councilmembers Pat Hume and Darren Suen expressed many of the same sentiments as Nguyen and agreed to request for an independent investigation by the Sacramento County Grand Jury. Hume also addressed the concerns of many speakers who said that Singh-Allen and the other women speaking against Ly were attacking the Hmong community and culture.

"It is abhorrent that this in any way is being cast as an indictment dispersion upon Hmong people," Hume said. "The Hmong are not bad people, and you, Mr. Mayor, are not a bad person."    

Hume then criticized Ly saying he had deflected the criticism by having dozens of people speak on his behalf in an attempt to obscure the complaints leveled against him. Many of the pro-Ly speakers also accused Detrick and Hume of past ethics violations that they said were unaddressed. 

"We've heard a lot, as I say defection, bringing up other things that happened in the past does not excuse what is being alleged currently," he said.  

During his commentary, Ly acknowledged he did not realize the hurt inflicted on the aggrieved women and promised to improve.

"It is important to acknowledge and recognize their pain, and that is what I did in my statement to let them know that I believe them," he said. "What I want to do is to have an opportunity to sit down with them and figure out a pathway for all of us to heal."

Regarding cultural sensitivity training, Ly said "for me to be put in a position where I am asked to disregard and denounce my family, that makes it very difficult for me. My denouncing the Hmong patriarchy would be the equivalent of denouncing my father, my mother, my grandparents, and every ancestor who came before me." 

Ly also seemingly addressed Singh-Allen, who many of the public speakers took issue with, saying she criticized the Hmong clan and patriarchy system in a published story. 

"For a system that is 5,000 years old, it is troubling to hear those that may not have a good understanding, who have not had the training and anthropological studies or in sociology to make these remarks that is very hurtful," Ly said. "The community is crying, they are hurting, and I think for all electeds, I think we should be very careful what we say."

Following the meeting, Chaires-Espinoza said the city council referral for a Grand Jury investigation validated the claims laid out against Ly.

"While I was disappointed that the Council opted against censuring Mr. Ly, I’m appreciative of their recognition that they were witnessing the continuation of the attacks we’ve been describing," Chaires-Espinoza said. "I look forward to the Grand Jury investigation."

Singh-Allen, who is one of two candidates challenging Ly this November said a Grand Jury investigation is demonstrative of the seriousness of the charges.

"It is appropriate that Mayor Ly’s pattern of behavior is now going to be under a microscope," she said. 

Because of the COVID19 pandemic, the functioning of the Sacramento County Grand Jury has been altered. The Grand Jury convenes typically for a one-year session starting on July 1.

This year, because of the shelter in place order issued in March, the term of the Grand Jury empaneled on July 1, 2019, has been extended six months until December 31, 2020. The next Grand Jury will start on January 1, 2021, and will likewise function for 18 months ending June 30, 2022.  

It is not known if the current Grand Jury will accept the request or the new one starting on January 1. Furthermore, it is unknown if the city's request for an investigation will automatically be honored. 

If the current Grand Jury investigates, it is unlikely the report will be issued before the November election. If the next Grand Jury conducts the investigation, their report would be released near the end of their term in June 2022.

Along with the referral to the Sacramento Grand Jury, the city council voted to pursue a formalized censure policy.  

Copyright by Elk Grove News © 2020. All right reserved.










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6 comments

D.J. Blutarsky said...


Mayor Ly believe it or not, has put this issue to rest. Now the voters must decide whether he is worthy of another term as Mayor.

To say he apologizes for the womens pain and regrets the unauthorized bullying from his supporters is right out of Damage Control 101 and Protect My Cash 101. No one should expect anything more to be uttered from his lips.

No lawyer in his/her right mind, is going to advise his client to issue an apology for his personal actions. To do so would be an admission of guilt and opens the door for possible civil suits for emotional distress and pain and suffering. Imagine what a miscarriage could him. Gotta protect your cash!

Pushing this whole mess to the Grand Jury is like punting from your own end zone--the ball's gonna end up somewhere, as long as it gets out of the end zone! Plus, a possible violation of a local code of ethics does not rise to a level of a criminal or legal violations that Grand Juries typically involve themselves with. It's no cooincidence that Ly asked the Police Chief to state for the record in July that there was no finding of criminal conduct.

From the outside looking in, it appears to me that Mayor Ly has called their bet and is waiting for them to play their next hand.

Unknown said...

No grand jury investigation needed. PD concluded their inquiry and found no culpability. So far, I've heard only allegations of wrongdoing, no actual evidence linking Ly directly to his proxies that allegedly committed the offenses. The best solution for the City of Elk Grove and its residents is for this matter to be resolved at the ballot box. Personally, this whole debacle is a non starter for me. Ly should be voted out, along with the rest of the council due to their lack of leadership and oversight of city expenditures.

Jake Rambo said...

A lot folks are confused about what the Grand Jury referral means. California counties have standing civil Grand Juries that do more than investigate crime. They have the authority and mission to investigate and issue reports on local government operations. They also investigate complaints of governmental misconduct. The civil Grand Jury issues a report that the coty must respond to in writing. The report includes both findings and recommendations for improvement. The Grand Jury also has the authority to issue an accusation, a legal document similar to an indictment. But instead of criminal charge, an accusation is tried in Superior Court with a jury. The DA acts as prosecutor and if the jury upholds GJ recommendation, the penalty is immediate disqualification from office. Cases have rarely is ever reached trial because the office holders have always resigned rather than stand trial.

The issue going to the Grand Jury is not necessarily what has been at the forefront of the politics headlines. The GJ will look at potential misuse of office, likely in 3 ways: Most significant, the use of office and resources to discourage by threats and intimidation citizens from engaging in public process. Issues will be the threats to Ms Vwj to remove her critical posts, same for Ms Cheung. The July 22 council meeting is also a problem-Ly used his authority as Mayor to grant himself time to attack a private citizen and front unrelated allegations to embarass Vwj. Citizens have a statutory right and constitutional right to speak at council, electeds cannot punish or threaten them for doing so. The next will be the issues with Tyler Scorci-there is evidence that Ly was using a city employee to perform political work. There’s also the initimidation of protestors, if Ly knew about it or directed using a city employee, he has a big problem. Finally, violating the city code of ethics and city HR policy (Ly was a manager supervising Scorci and did not report the sex harassment complaints to the HR Director) can be examined. The GJ will evaluate whether the city, though Ly, violates its policies and rules. They can find that it did, and then make recommendations for the coty to improve going forward. They can also address Ly’s violation of city policy.

EGN said...

Thank you for the explanation.

D.J. Blutarsky said...

Thank you for the clarification Mr. Rambo. One side has to keep the story alive until the election, and the other side is assured that no GJ report, if any, will be available for review until well AFTER the election.

Eye on Elk Grove said...

The Sacramento County Grand Jury may even opt out of investigating the complaint. Just because the city files a complaint, the grand jury can refuse to investigate.

As background on the Ly complaint, City Attorney Jon Hobbs referenced the grand jury complaint on former Elk Grove City Council member Michael Leary. The grand jury only accepted the complaint because the evidence of threats was "open and shut." One piece of evidence: Leary used his official SSD email to deliver one of his threats. As such, the grand jury added former Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness and the sheriff's department into the investigation.

In their ruling, the grand jury report stated the offenses were so "egregious" that Leary even violated the Color of Law. The Color of Law also covers council members. However, that would be a stretch in this current case.

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