Facing harassment and intimidation claims, does Elk Grove’s mayor need a third term?
Sacramento Bee Editorial Board, August 18, 2020
Does Steve Ly need a third term as mayor of Elk Grove?
The Elk Grove City Council voted 4-0 last Wednesday to ask the Sacramento County Grand Jury to investigate multiple claims of harassment and intimidation by Ly. Multiple women, including elected officials, have come forth to detail how Ly has used his position to bully opponents and silence critics.
In a chilling detail, anonymous Ly supporters claiming to represent a Hmong clan system have allegedly sent “cryptic” messages to several women who have spoken out against Ly, making them feel intimidated.
On Aug. 5, a group calling itself Hmong American Kinship sent a letter to The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board and other media outlets calling on Bobbie Singh-Allen to resign from the Elk Grove Unified School District Board of Education. Why? Because Singh-Allen, who is running against Ly in the November election, had publicly criticized Ly’s campaign of intimidation against local women
According to a story published in the Elk Grove Citizen, Singh-Allen had referred to the anonymous group targeting Ly’s supporters as a “controlling and intimidating system used to attack and silence these women.” The group responded by publishing the unsigned letter calling on Singh Allen to resign immediately — thus proving her point.
The anonymous letter was unsigned by any individual. Its only listed contact information was a post office box in Elk Grove. The anonymous group tried to depict Singh-Allen’s criticism as racially-tinged, but such claims seem like a stretch. Elk Grove is one of the most diverse cities in California and many of the women making accusations against Ly are women of color. They have every right to criticize the mayor’s behavior, as well as the behavior of anonymous groups that engage in intimidation.
Last week, Ly issued a general apology to the women who have made allegations of harassment against him and his supporters.
“They have spoken out about being harassed, intimidated, and bullied,” Ly said in the prepared statement. “I believe them and acknowledge their pain. I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering they have endured.”
The women to whom Ly apologized quickly rejected his broad apology and said the mayor was still failing to acknowledge his behavior.
“No healing can take place as long as you continue to be dishonest and gaslight me and other victims,” Nancy Chaires Espinoza, a board trustee with the Elk Grove Unified School District, told KCRA.
Ly’s apology came only after it became clear that the City Council would ask the grand jury to investigate the claims. Among those claims:
“Ly has been under fire since June over a range of accusations by at least four women. His former campaign manager, Linda Vue, accused him of pressuring her into removing damaging comments on Facebook,” wrote Michael Finch II of The Sacramento Bee. “Most recently, Jaclyn Moreno, a director for the Cosumnes Community Services
District, accused one of Ly’s campaign employees of sexual harassment. Moreno said Ly failed to remove the employee after he was told about multiple incidents.”
“Others have also accused Ly of engaging in politically hostile acts. Bobbie Singh Allen said he tried to stop her appointment to the school board in 2012 and Nancy Chaires Espinoza said Ly recruited candidates to run against her,” Finch wrote.
Ly made history in 2016 when he became the first Hmong mayor in the nation. His story — fleeing communist Laos with his family at age 4, working in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley and graduating from UC Davis — seemed like a perfect immigrant success story. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way during his mayoral tenure, Ly went wrong.
His blanket apology to those who say they’ve been victimized by his behavior in office illustrates a serious weakness in his leadership ability. A person caught up in such a maelstrom of credible accusations does not seem like the best candidate for a third two-year term as mayor of Elk Grove. If anyone needs to step aside from public life, it’s Steve Ly, not Bobbie Singh-Allen.
Ly should think about whether running a reelection campaign while apologizing for harassment and facing a grand jury investigation is what’s best for Elk Grove.