By Jim Tortolano
The sharp divisions within the Westminster City Council were underlined at Wednesday’s meeting as members clashed angrily and loudly over the censure of two members of the council and the two-year old commendation of an actress.
After hours of sometimes-angry argument and debate, the council voted 3-2 – with Councilmembers Kimberly Ho, Tai Do and Carlos Manzo in favor of asking the city attorney to prepare a resolution censuring Mayor Tri Ta and Vice Mayor Chi Charlie Nguyen for statements regarding the Quang Tri Monument.
The censure resolution would be formally considered at the next meeting. Such an action would have no official effect other than be a rebuke.
“This item is really, really wasteful,” said Ta. “Censoring freedom of speech … I don’t get it.”
Ho responded, “You don’t just disagree with us. You tell your lies.” She accused her opponents of falsely saying that tax dollars were being used to build the monument, intended to commemorate a victory by South Vietnamese forces in 1972 over troops from the communist North Vietnamese Army.
At issue were comments made in Vietnamese language news media and other venues. The angry exchanges at the meeting took place against the background of recall attempts aimed at removing from office Ho and Manzo. Additionally, Ho was originally part of the three-member council majority with Ta and Nguyen before she switched sides and aligned with Do and Manzo.
The evening’s drama began with consideration of rescinding a resolution from 2019 of the city council commending actress Ngo Thanh Van for her work on a film on human trafficking. Some objected to the commendation at the time on the grounds that it was supportive of the communist regime in Vietnam.
Ho made a motion to denounce the resolution, demanding that the mayor denounce the commendation and have her name removed from the document. Ho had originally voted against a motion to rescind the commendation resolution at a March 2019 meeting.
“It’s not personal,” said Ho. “I believe the mayor does not know what the community wants.”
“This is nothing other than political revenge,” said Ta. “We need to move on.”
During the discussion, Ho teared up and spoke of the “pain” that the resolution caused. Do seconded the motion but proposed a substitute motion to revoke the resolution, a motion the city attorney said was “not proper.” The substitute motion to recall the original resolution and have the names of those councilmembers who object to the commendation removed from a new commendation.
The voting was interrupted by back-and-forth between Ho and Nguyen in which they talked over each other and exchanged barbs. At one point, Ho said to Nguyen, “You need to take anger management.” Nguyen and Manzo also traded harsh words.
Finally, the motion was approved three to zero, with Ho, Do and Manzo in favor with Ta and Nguyen abstaining.
The meeting began at 7 p.m. and lasted over six hours. The next council session is scheduled for Oct. 13.