Tyler Diep left the Westminster City Council in 2018, but he was very much on the minds of city leaders Wednesday night and well into Thursday morning. His recent controversial selection by City Manager Marwan Youssef as a go-between with state and Federal legislators took up much of a virtual meeting that spanned over six hours.
Both toward the beginning and end of the meeting the council discussed the propriety and necessity of hiring Diep, who served on the city council from 2008 to 2012 and 2014-18 and was elected to one term in the state Assembly in 2018, losing his seat representing the 72nd District in 2020 to fellow Republican Janet Nguyen.
Diep’s contract to lobby for the city came under fierce criticism from some members of the public as well as some councilmembers, and a motion to consider cancelling the contract at the next meeting was passed unanimously.
Part of the heat about the deal was that at least two members of the city council hadn’t been informed about the move. “It was a shock to learn about city business from a newspaper reporter,” said Councilmember Tai Do. “I never received even a courtesy notice.”
Youseff, who became the city manager in February of this year, defended his decision to retain Diep. “Given the current financial state of the city, as a new city manager I felt that it was important that the city was well aware of all opportunities for funding from outside sources,” said Youssef.
“This includes but is not limited to any state or federal grant opportunities. In light of the federal infrastructure bill and other actions being taken at the state and federal level to stimulate the economy, I felt that it was essential that we have a designated person who could help us [with] the complex legislation and opportunities that may arise.”
He went on to say he approached Diep for that role and that “Diep is very well-qualified.”
The decision nevertheless remained controversial. On a separate matter relating to approval of permits by the city manager’s office, Do said he now “questioned the judgment” of Youssef.
In addition to the motion that could lead to the cancellation of Diep’s deal, the council also voted to place on the agenda for the next meeting consideration of reducing the city manager’s ability to allocate up to $180,000 without council approval, and also to require a report from Diep as to what his activities have been on behalf of the city under the contract, for which he has been paid $19,000.
Also, the city council approved a motion to ask city staff to bring back proposals to reduce the landscaping requirements for properties that have accessory dwelling units. The intent is to provide additional parking space in an effort to reduce double-parking in streets where ADUs are built.
The vote was 3-1 in favor with Councilmember Carlos Manzo dissenting and Vice Mayor Chi Charlie Nguyen recusing himself because he has an application pending for the construction of an ADU.
The next meeting of the city council is slated for June 9.