Elk Grove council will ask grand jury to investigate accusations of misconduct against mayor

Elk Grove News, August 14, 2020

The city of Elk Grove will ask a grand jury to investigate claims of misconduct levied against Mayor Steve Ly, pulling in an independent authority to settle multiple allegations of harassment and intimidation.

In a 4-0 vote late Wednesday after a marathon session, the Elk Grove City Council sent the matter to the Sacramento County Grand Jury to unravel claims against the mayor and his associates.

A grand jury has the power to investigate various forms of wrongdoing, including abuse of power and a failure to perform duties. Elk Grove is no stranger to the process, having been the subject of at least five investigations since the city was incorporated in July 2000.

Ly was elected in 2016 as the first mayor of Hmong descent in the country and is up for re-election in November. A number of women have accused Ly of orchestrating attacks on social media against them, a claim the mayor has denied.

The mayor’s former campaign manager Linda Vue also accused him of trying to pressure her into removing critical statements about him on Facebook. Vue said she received cryptic text messages from someone claiming to be representative of a Hmong clan system who was trying to intervene on Steve’s behalf.

In a separate case, Jaclyn Moreno, a director for the Cosumnes Community Services District, accused one of Ly’s campaign staffers of sexual harassment. Moreno said when Ly was told about the incidents, he failed to remove the employee from the campaign office they occupied together.

Others say Ly has done things that were politically harmful or hostile, like recruiting candidates to run against them or trying to undo an appointment to the school board. Taken together, the claims offer a different picture of Ly who has cultivated an image as a progressive.

Ly issued a public apology in a prepared statement last week, saying he did not condone harassment, intimidation or bullying. He restated his support for the women again at the remote meeting Wednesday and asked his supporters to refrain from harassing people.

“I want to make it clear tonight for all the public who are listening,” Ly said during the meeting. “You do not have my approval to harass or intimidate anyone. It is wrong. Do not do that.”

Earlier Wednesday, a group of women assembled for a press conference across the street from City Hall calling for the City Council to censure the mayor, a formal show of disapproval that carries no punishment. Many of the women said Ly did not acknowledge his own actions in the written apology.

“The first step in the restorative justice process is to acknowledge the harm that has been caused by your actions,” Moreno said, adding that the mayor has not done that in his statement or in an email she received. “I don’t need an apology, but the community deserves acknowledgment so we can move forward together.”

COUNCILWOMAN NGUYEN OFFERS MEDIATION

The City Council was expected to debate censuring Ly but many of their comments focused on the need for an independent investigation.

Councilwoman Stephanie Nguyen outlined a number of steps Ly should take to remedy the problems, including a class on cultural sensitivity. She also asked him to create a community forum on the Hmong culture and the clan system that would be led by women.

“As a parent, and I know you’re a parent, too, we teach our children to stand up to their bullies and these women believe that you are their bully,” Nguyen said to Ly. “And what they’re doing right now is they’re standing up to you.”

Nguyen said she would like to serve as a mediator instead of Ly sending letters or watching the debate play out in public meetings.

“At some point, I do believe there needs to be real conversations because right now what I’m seeing is that these conversations are attacks that are either happening online or at these public meetings,” Nguyen said. “This is not a way for our young people to see how leaders act.”

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