The campaign to recall a majority of the Westminster City Council advanced this week, with organizers claiming to have enough signatures for a ballot measure to unseat Mayor Tri Ta and colleagues Kimberly Ho and Chi Charlie Nguyen.
Opponents of the trio believe that “they are corrupt, they work for themselves and not those they represent, and that their unethical actions are crippling the city,” said David Johnson, an organizer of Westminster United, the group initiating the recall effort.
He said group members submitted nearly 10,900 signatures targeting Ta to Westminster’s city clerk on Monday, along with 10,800 signatures against Ho and 10,700 against Nguyen — all of which must be verified by the Orange County Registrar of Voters.
Westminster United was required to collect a minimum of 8,736 signatures, making up 20% of the city’s registered voters.
“We’re ecstatic,” Johnson said. “With recalls, there’s a lot of big talk, but in the U.S. or in California, to get even 50% to show up on election day is a huge challenge. But we well exceeded our signature goal, and we turned it in very early.”
Ho, Nguyen and Ta have accused organizers of fraud and, through attorney Lan Quoc Nguyen and a group called the Committee Against Recall, issued a statement denouncing the effort.
“Instead of building for a truly united Westminster, recall proponents have caused deep political division and disharmony in the city, forcing the potential expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money to deal with this recall, funds that could be used for seniors’ social programs or youth activities,” the statement read.
The statement went on to say that the trio of council members has asked the Orange County district attorney’s office for a “thorough investigation into this entire matter,” including what recall opponents referred to as “the high number of complaints from Westminster residents of alleged deception and fraud in the signature gathering process.”
“The residents of Westminster see this misguided recall effort as nothing but a political cabal comprised of a small group of opponents seeking power at City Hall when they have miserably failed at the polls in the November 2018 election,” the statement read.
Recall supporters began collecting signatures in early August, Johnson said — getting a funding boost from billionaire Kieu Hoang, who lives in Los Angeles County and who pumped more than $500,000 into the campaign. Johnson said that money covered hiring a political consultant and paying signature collectors, along with printing posters and buying television ads. Westminster United spent less than $10,000 on its campaign.
The group hopes to land a spot on the ballot for California’s March 3 election.
Throughout this year, the council majority has clashed with its minority, represented by council members Sergio Contreras and Tai Do, who are also targets of recall efforts. Community members have voiced anger and embarrassment at the verbal brawls that repeatedly have broken out at council meetings.
Do, a political newcomer, immediately demanded a city code of ethics and later attacked the trio for running a “dictatorship” he likened to Vietnam‘s communist regime.
That prompted the trio to call an emergency meeting, resulting in a news release that offered a tongue-in-cheek reassurance to residents that Westminster would not be renamed Ho Chi Minh City.