Part III - City Council to explore possible censure, other actions against Elk Grove Mayor following pointed discussion

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In the final installment of a three-part series on public and city council comments during the Wednesday, July 22 Elk Grove City Council meeting, we explore the city council's deliberations on requests to censure Mayor Steve Ly.

In what was at times a pointed conversation during their comment and administrative updates at the Wednesday, July 22 meeting, four members of the Elk Grove City Council agreed to explore possible non-binding disciplinary action aginst Mayor Steve Ly. The conversation on potential actions that might include a formal censure followed a lengthy public comment period.

During that segment, about two dozen people spoke about a controversy between Ly and his former campaign manager Linda Vu over allegations that mayor was responsible for harassment of her and other women, including elected officials, in Elk Grove. The speakers were evenly split between their support of Vu and other women and Ly.

Leading off was District 4 City Councilmember Stephanie Nguyen, who said she received over 30 emails urging the city council to take actions including an official censure of Ly for his alleged actions. She noted the act of censuring is akin to formal reprimand and has no further implications.

Noting their mutual Asian-American identity status, Nguyen said he should want to correct the situation "because what's out there does not make our city look good, and it doesn't make the Asian Pacific Islander community look good." 

As a remedy, Nguyen suggested a formal letter of apology, attend training on harassment and bullying and to personally coordinate an open meeting on the Hmong clan system to help educate the community on their customs and norms writ-large. 

Vice Mayor Steve Detrick said the situation between Ly and Vu put the city in an awkward position. He added even though the investigation of the allegations by Elk Grove Police found no criminal wrongdoing, it needs to be addressed.

"I would support the recommendation to bring this back to the next council meeting with the idea of you being censured," he said.

Detrick then personalized his comments saying Ly was skilled at organizing support visa-vie public comments at city council meetings but questioned what he had accomplished in his two terms as mayor. 

"There's some people who called in today and mentioned what a great job [he has done] with all your accomplishments," Detrick said. "To be honest with you, when people ask me what you've accomplished since you've been elected, you've ridin' the coattails of the previous council and the existing council."  

In his comments, Councilmember Pat Hume stressed the situation between Ly and Vu, both of whom are Hmong-Americans, was not exclusively a Hmong issue nor an indictment of their culture.

"I just want to caution people, you don't have the correct lens to at another culture that you are not a part of and understand the intricacies and complexes involved in it," he stated.

Hume did say the accusation, though, was indicative of a pattern of behavior by Ly and would support a review of possible actions at the next city council meeting. 

"I don't know if censure is the right course of action or putting a request out to the [Sacramento County] Grand Jury for an investigation," he said.

While the Sacramento County Grand Jury investigates criminal and civil matters, a criminal investigation is initiated only by a Sacramento District Attorney office referral. Each Grand Jury is charged with producing a report at the end of their term on their findings.  

Jurors typically serve one-year terms starting on July 1, but because of the COVID-19 shutdown, the current panel's time was extended to December 31, 2020. If the city council requested an investigation into Ly's actions, its request would be considered by the next panel which will be seated on January 1 for 18 months ending in June 2022, the same month findings of their investigation are released. 

During his comments, Ly acknowledged Nguyen's request for "self-improvement" but also queried his colleagues what specific actions alleged against him were to be censured. 

"Point of clarification - what action are you recommending I be censured for, what action is it," Ly said.

In response, Hume asked city attorney Jonathan Hobss what course of action could the city council take. Hobbs said the city council at this point does not need specific details on what action they might take against Ly at a future meeting.

"Censure-ship process is largely a legal formality, and as Councilmember Nguyen put it, it is a formal reprimand of conduct that a majority of the council might find unbecoming," Hobbs said. 

Commenting further, Ly seemingly embraced Nguyen's suggestions, said he would be willing to meet with his accusers to resolve issues, but again stressed he wanted to know what specific actions were involved in the potential censure. 

"My point of clarification is to apologize for what specific action," Ly said. 

The matter should be on the August 12 city council agenda. A censure, as Hobbs noted, has no legal ramifications, and should the city council recommend training for Ly, it is unclear what compliance authority, aside from political considerations, they have to ensure completion.  

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



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1 comment

D.J. Blutarsky said...

...""There's some people who called in today and mentioned what a great job [he has done] with all your accomplishments," Detrick said. "To be honest with you, when people ask me what you've accomplished since you've been elected, you've ridin' the coattails of the previous council and the existing council."..

Umm, ground control to major tom, have you held up a mirror up to yourself? What have you accomplished in 12 years on Council? Just sayin'

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