By Jim Tortolano
The angry verbal battles within the Westminster City Council continued at Wednesday night’s meeting.
It took nearly two hours of arguments and accusations, but the city council majority approved a policy governing interactions between public officials and city employees.
The vote was 3-2 with Mayor Tri Ta and Vice Mayor Chi Charlie Nguyen opposed.
Generally, the new policy would specify that city council members – except in the case of simple questions requiring no substantial research or action – interact directly only with the city manager, not department heads or lower level employees.
More controversial was the requirement that the mayor’s office be relocated out of the city hall building.
Councilmember Kimberly Ho (District 3) was on the council subcommittee – along with Councilmember Carlos Manzo (District 2) – that helped draw up the policy, and she led the verbal charge in favor of it.
“I do not like to see what I am seeing,” she said. “I don’t want to embarrass anyone, but I will if I have to. Don’t challenge me.” She claimed that undue influence by city council members in the past had led to expensive lawsuits.
Manzo said, “This policy is not aimed at anyone personally. This problem existed long before any of us were here. There’s been a very unhealthy work environment for a long time.”
Councilmember Tai Do accused other council members of misrepresenting the power of the mayoral position, calling it, “Lies and lies and lies.” Ta fired back that “everything I said … is based in fact.”
Things got more heated from there. Nguyen questioned why Ho had – in his opinion – changed her opinion on such a policy from when she was in the council majority with him and Ta.
She replied that “You are the whole reason” for the policy. “Quit while you are ahead.” She accused him of bringing developers to city hall and interrupting the work of city staff, and demanded an investigation about possible attempts to influence decisions on behalf of developers.
“I’m not worried about it,” said Nguyen.
After much cross talk and argument, the matter finally came to a vote.