Elk Grove City Council votes to have grand jury investigate Mayor Ly

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Elk Grove Citizen, July 31, 2020

The Elk Grove City Council decided to have a Sacramento County grand jury investigate allegations of political intimidation and harassment by Mayor Steve Ly and his associates.

Council members voted 4-0 on Wednesday night to approve the grand jury investigation. Ly abstained from the vote.

The decision came after two hours of public comment, and the discussion between city council members ran late into the night.

"No healing can take place as long as you continue to be dishonest and gaslight me and other victims," said Nancy Chaires Espinoza, a board trustee with the Elk Grove Unified School District

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Chaires Espinoza is one of several women accusing Ly of overly aggressive campaign tactics. The women speaking with KCRA 3 said Wednesday they received emails from Ly asking to meet, just hours before the city council voted on the investigation.

Pablo Espinoza

Email from Mayor Steve Ly to Linda Vu

"My response [via email] was I would be happy to meet with him, but first he needs to acknowledge the hurt he caused because of his inaction," said Jaclyn Moreno, Cosumnes CSD director who ran a campaign alongside Ly in 2018.

Moreno detailed in a blog post the harassment she claims was directed towards her by one of Ly's staff members.

Linda Vu, Ly's former campaign manager, called Ly's email outreach a "political stunt."

"After I spoke up [against Ly], there were troll accounts, fake accounts, trying to discredit me," Vu said. "He had about two months to contact me to reconcile, to apologize. But for him to do it six hours before a meeting that would discuss the censure of him is very politically motivated."

Vu has since signed on as a staff member with Bobbie Singh-Allen's mayoral campaign. Singh-Allen is running against Ly in November for Elk Grove mayor.

Ly issued a statement on Friday when KCRA 3 first reported on the accusations of harassment against him. At Wednesday night's council meeting, he shared he did not support bullying or harassment of any kind.

"I am married to a woman, I have sisters, and my mom is still with me. To [possibly] hear they would be subjected to this [kind of] mistreatment would be totally wrong," Ly said. "I empathize with these women. But the more important part is, I’m willing to sit with them and move beyond this."

"I understand you are motivated in finding justice of this," Ly added. "So, I am supportive of an independent investigation and I will stand by their findings."

Nearly 100 callers lined up for public comment. The council members voted to limit calls to one minute instead of the usual three. Ly opposed the time change.

"This is something in regards to my reputation and I feel this is not giving me due process," Ly said.

Several callers spoke in favor of Ly.

"I hope you can see how these calls are all from opponents out to get the mayor," said one caller.

"I find it insulting to believe Steve would have the kind of power to suppress strong women like me," said another woman who went by Mary. "Steve is a good man."

"This is a political smear against the mayor," another caller said.

City council members, however, raised concerns about Ly's behavior.

“This is uncomfortable for anyone of us," said Councilmember Darren Suen during the discussion. "The fact is, we’ve heard from elected representatives and residents of our community and we’re trying to acknowledge the pain and suffering. I believe these women, [and] I don’t think they have anything to lie about. But, it's not something we take pleasure in."

“Mayor Ly, you failed in all four areas in our adopted code of ethics," said Vice Mayor Steven Detrick. "That is really disappointing. No matter what we decide [Wednesday night], some will say it's not enough, some will say we should have done more.”

Councilmember Stephanie Nguyen was first to bring the motion of bringing the matter to a grand jury investigation. She also requested having city staff develop a policy on future censuring of council members, which would be discussed during a future meeting.

The motion was seconded by Councilmember Patrick Hume.

Ly thanked his colleagues for their comments and said he is continuously working on self-improvement.

"I would be more than happy to help any elected [official] to create that safe zone so we as a community can be that strong, diverse, inclusive community that we have always been pushing for," he said.

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