Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly’s recent statement and plea for supporters of his to stop harassing the women accusing him of unethical behavior seems, for some, to be falling on deaf ears. Mayor Steve Ly attempted to apologize, clearly stated that he believed the women, and asked them to stop the “reprehensible behavior.” However, both supporters and detractors of Elk Grove’s Mayor continue a heated online battle online to define the narrative going into the Elk Grove’s 2020 election.
The irony is that some of Mayor Ly’s supporters wrongfully claimed that Black Lives Matter wanted Bobbie Singh-Allen to resign. When we checked with Tanya Faison of Black Lives Matter, she confirmed that this was not the case. Some of the posts on social media have been slanderous in nature.
This particular comment targets Mai Vang of the Sacramento Unified School District Board. Vang is running for the Sacramento City Council. Mai Vang dared to publicly criticize Mayor Steve Ly’s Facebook post which wrongfully attributed the South Sac fire to Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter was not responsible for that fire. Though Ly’s Facebook post was taken down after Ly acknowledged his mistake, furious supporters started attacking Mai Vang and commenting about how she had gotten elected through their support. The misogyny in John Thao’s statement is typical of the comments that have been directed at all the women who have come forward to accuse Mayor Steve Ly of harassment.
As the Elk Grove Tribune investigated online, the often heated online political debate underway seems to be turning into blatant harassment by people who support Mayor Steve Ly. As proof of ongoing harassment, some of the women who have come forward (including elected officials), shared comments, and posts on social media by individuals believed to be Ly’s supporters. Some of the comments appear to openly confront Ly’s now-former campaign manager Linda Vwj, accusing her of improper behavior during her time with the Ly campaign. Other comments target the women directly or accuse the women of disrespecting Hmong culture.
Mia Yang (Foster) is the Elk Grove woman who started the change.org petition to get Bobbie Singh-Allen to resign. Please note that as of the time of this article, the change.org petition to get Bobbie Singh-Allen to resign has 1,997 signatures while the petition to get Mayor Steve Ly to resign has 11,327 signatures. Clearly, the petition to get Mayor Steve Ly to resign has gained more steam.
Public Comments During City Council Meetings
Mia Yang/Mia Foster July 12 Public Comments:
“Thank you good evening Mayor Ly and City Council Members. This is Mia Foster and I have been an Elk Grove resident for over 11 years now. And until recently I had never really paid much attention to local politics. However recent events have transpired within our community that have been very disconcerting to me. Statements have been made by a couple of our elected officials right here in Elk Grove about the Hmong culture of which I am a part of, of which my children are a part of. EGUSD Board of Education Trustee Bobbie Singh-Allen described the Hmong community as a controlling and intimidating system used to attack and silence women. CSD Director Jaclyn Moreno demanded that the Hmong community dismantle the patriarchy within its system. And within the last month or so, op-eds, open letters and articles have all been published denigrating the Hmong community. Just yesterday the Sac Bee published another article about us. Just as the previous pieces published before it, this article sought to interpret the Hmong culture through the lens of a Western world view. It’s a world view which continues to exhibit dominance over minority cultures today. My understanding of everything that has been going on is that the Hmong community is being used as collateral damage in whatever personal and/or political agenda that is driving all of this. And the woman who is leading these efforts is a local political insider by the name of Linda Vue.
“Now on July 12, 2020, I actually had an online exchange with Linda where I essentially asked her to stop using her personal and political vendetta against the Mayor of Elk Grove to publicly slander the Hmong community. I also asked her to please take up her grievances with the Mayor at the polls this November as I would be doing the same. And in response, Linda Vue threatened me based on information that she had gathered for her to find out where I live. I have since filed a police report regarding this threat that was made by Linda Vue. For someone that works in local politics, threatening someone who is a mere constituent for voicing my opinions should be a serious concern. And it violates the trust that we place in our political system. Linda Vue is weaponizing her political prowess to find out where her constituents might be living and then threatening them. It’s Linda who is using the political system to control, intimidate, attack, and silence women. And the only other elected official who has also been making disparaging statements regarding my entire ethnic community also needs to be held accountable for potentially inciting hatred against us, especially during a time when Asian Americans have already been experiencing a spike in hate crime due to the coronavirus. Thank you for your time.”
Mia Yang/Mia Foster September 9 Public Comments:
“City Council members throughout the duration of the conflict between the Mayor and the woman who come forward with allegations of harassment — The only Councilman who has ever really defended the Hmong community was Council Member Pat Hume. Unfortunately, that was very short-lived. In the end, his actions speak louder than the pretty words he uttered in defense of the Hmong.
“And the silence from the rest of you lends credence to Elk Grove’s long tradition of abuse of power and inability to address racism. The day after the last city council meeting, where one of you expressed that the issue of Bobbie Singh-Allen’s racism should be addressed with the school board as opposed to the city council — You all unanimously and publicly endorsed Bobbie for mayor. And in doing so, you blasted your own stance on the issue of racism, particularly when it’s launched against the Hmong community. So much for washing your hands of this, right? The war you’ve been waging against the Mayor year after year suddenly began to make sense to me. And I thought perhaps this has been the driving force all along behind your shady tactics to, for one, get rid of the mayoral position. In any case you didn’t get the memo, we have addressed the issue with the school board and we will continue to do so like you, Dereck, are attempting to avoid responsibility and Bobbie being Bobbie, this is validation that she didn’t do anything wrong. Silly girl, if you didn’t do anything wrong then the school board wouldn’t be working so hard to disassociate themselves from your so-called off-duty activities now would they? On top of that, there’s mounting evidence that Bobbie’s racist portrayals of the Hmong people have stirred the hearts of racists right here in Elk Grove and perhaps beyond.
“Explicit racist statements or sentiments have shifted from the virtual world to now the City Council meeting, for example, as evident by one caller, the last city council meeting, who used the work of an apparent radical to disparage and psychoanalyze Hmong men once again. And because Bobbie and her supporters continue to shove the Hmong people in a box and paint all of us as Ly’s supporters, we are seen as nothing more than the political arm for the Mayor. Let me reiterate that being Hmong and defending the Hmong community from racism does not make one a Steve Ly supporter. The Hmong people are not a monolithic group. We represent a diverse array of backgrounds and political attitudes. And anyone who fails to make this distinction or simply put, a racist, I don’t care if you’re three percent Hmong, I don’t care if you think you understand our kinship system because your own culture may or may not be similar. I don’t care if you are a former Hmong turned Korea-boo. None of that is an excuse for racism. Thank you.”
Above all, this comment by Mai Tou Vaj, which is believed to be a fake profile, attempts to call out Cosumnes CSD Director Jaclyn Moreno for blaming Ty Sorci’s bullying and harassment of her on Mayor Steve Ly. However, it is noted that multiple members of Team Elk Grove including Rosanna Herber, Orlando Fuentes, and Andres Ramos, who also ran on the same slate, have backed up Moreno’s version of events and indicated that Mayor Ly did nothing to stop the harassment and bullying.
Elk Grove’s embattled Mayor recently issued a statement condemning harassment or any other “reprehensible behavior” by his supporters. He called on the attacks to stop. However, upon examination of recent posts on Facebook and actions, it cannot be underscored enough that the harassment and bullying is absolutely still occurring. These latest developments cap a months long saga threatening to block Ly’s re-election as Mayor of Elk Grove. Ly’s latest challenger in the race for Mayor, Elk Grove Unified School District Trustee Bobbie Singh Allen, entered the race for Mayor only weeks ago. Trustee Singh Allen is one of the women accusing Ly of not doing enough to stop harassment by his supporters. Full disclosure, Elk Grove Tribune Owner and Editor-In-Chief Dr. Jacqueline “Jax” Cheung is also one of Ly’s accusers. The other women who have stepped forward include EGUSD Trustee Nancy Chaires Espinoza, Cosumnes CSD Director Jaclyn Moreno, Planning Commissioner Mackenzie Wieser, former campaign manager Linda Vwj, and former mayoral candidate Michelle Kile.
Ali Moua, City Council Candidate
City Council Candidate Ali Moua has also inserted himself into this battle. Mayor Steve Ly has claimed that he has nothing to do with Ali Moua. However, Ali Moua recently drafted a letter to the Elk Grove Unified School District seeking a response by August 31. In the letter, he cited a post from Bobbie’s own page which was taken out of context. Bobbie had been responding to a troll harassing her on her personal Facebook page. She posted a meme that said “A lion doesn’t lose sleep over the opinions of sheep.” In this post, Bobbie didn’t say one word about Hmong people or culture. She simply meant that she would be ignoring the trolls on her personal Facebook. It is also important to note that her last name Singh means lion in Punjabi. Moua claimed this as evidence that Singh-Allen was disrespecting Hmong culture. Later, many individuals claimed that the meme Bobbie posted was anti-Hmong.
Many in Elk Grove perceive Ali Moua’s letter to be simply retaliation and harassment to punish Bobbie Singh-Allen for coming forward, for her allegations against Steve Ly, for the grand jury investigation against Steve Ly, and for challenging him for the position of Mayor of Elk Grove. Randy Bekker, an Elk Grove citizen, has been a vocal supporter of the women who have stepped forward. He has posted online and has called into two City Council meetings denouncing Mayor Steve Ly and expressing support for the women. During the last Elk Grove Unified School District Board Meeting, a bunch of Mayor Ly supporters called in, accusing Bobbie Singh-Allen of disrespecting Hmong culture and calling upon her to resign. However, they seem to defend Mayor Steve Ly at any cost, without acknowledging any of the harassment the women have been through. Similarly at the City Council Meeting, a bunch of Mayor Ly’s supporters called in expressing their support of Mayor Steve Ly.
Mayor Steve Ly appears to be popular in the Hmong community. However, Mayor Ly will need more than just the support of the Hmong community to get re-elected. Since Ali Moua is also running for Elk Grove City Council, it will interesting to see how he conducts his campaign against Darren Suen. The Elk Grove Tribune has confirmed that at least a dozen Elk Grove citizens plan to file a formal complaint with the California State Bar Association against Ali Moua, who is an attorney for using his position as a City Council candidate and an attorney to harass and slander elected women officials.
Elk Grove News & Media Forum Allows
Harassers To Speak But Not Victims
A new news media site has appeared on Facebook recently called Elk Grove News & Media. It appears to be a Facebook page run by Jim “Sonney” Chong. Recently, it hosted several forums via Zoom. During the most recently forum, Sonney Chong invited Sean Yang, who is running for EGUSD School Board, Dr. Firdos Sheikh (who has active criminal charges against her), Dan Gougherty, and David Phammavong. Dr. Firdos Sheikh still has not resolved her criminal case and yet she has relentlessly attacked and belittled the women who have come forward online.
Important to note, not one of the women who have accused Mayor Steve Ly and his associates of bullying, harassment, and intimidation were asked to participate in the two forums run by Elk Grove Media & News or for their opinion or statements. With the exception of Dan Gougherty, who runs Elk Grove News, the other participants, including Sonney Chong, seemed to participate in the same harassment and victim shaming that has been seen online on Facebook. Gougherty pointed out that a lot of Elk Grove believed former Mayor of Elk Grove Gary Davis was going to run and were surprised when Bobbie joined the race. Therefore, Singh-Allen’s affirmation that she previously had no intention of running seems credible. All of the women who have come forward have adamantly stated that they did not come forward to help Singh-Allen become Mayor of Elk Grove, as she had no intention of running when this saga started.
Harassment & Bullying Continues Say Women
Cosumnes CSD Director Jaclyn Moreno expressed her disappointment with Mayor Steve Ly’s failure to take accountability.
“I am disheartened by Mayor Ly’s response to this whole ordeal. His inability to acknowledge the harm that he caused has empowered people to continue to discredit my experiences and the experiences of others. I encourage Mayor Ly to take accountability so that our community can heal and move forward.”
Planning Commissioner Mackenzie Wieser mentioned that this isn’t just the claims of one woman and this isn’t what city leadership should be focusing on during a pandemic.
“In a city steeped in “small town culture,” it’s truly sad to see that our own Mayor hasn’t come out and demanded an end to the continued barrage of negativity and hate. This is not just one women’s claim. This is many women speaking up in solidarity to say enough is enough. This is not what our city’s leadership should be working on during a pandemic. We should be banding together to move our city towards unity and acceptance.”
Dr. Jacqueline “Jax” Cheung said she was tired of all of the harassment and bullying online.
“Though Mayor Steve Ly has attempted to apologize, said he believed the women, and asked his supporters to stop “reprehensible behavior,” the reprehensible behavior continues. I don’t honestly think we have to say much. Look at what’s happening. Look at them trying to discredit and harass all of us, especially Bobbie now that she’s running. Now Elk Grove Media & News is complicit. I wonder why they can’t see that their actions make it worse for Mayor Steve Ly. I personally am looking forward to the truth coming out in the grand jury investigation.”
Linda Vwj expressed a similar sentiment.
“If Ly was truly sincere about asking his supporters to stop the harassment and threats, he would have released his statement on his social media platforms. He showed no efforts to make his message accessible to them because it was never his intention from the start.
Recently, Ly participated in an interview on Elk Grove Media and News, which is a biased news outlet, that provided him and his supporters a space to interact. Despite the continued smear campaign by his strongest and loudest supporters, Ly never asked them to stop or remind them that he believed our claims to be true. Instead, he actively participated in the conversation to deflect responsibility.”
Women Seek Change
Last week, Elk Grove City Council voted 4-0 to refer to a Grand Jury questions over possible ethics violations. However, the City Council did not, vote to censure Mayor Ly. A group of women wearing masks that said “I WILL NOT BE SILENCED!’ recently gathered outside Elk Grove City Hall for a press conference which was attended by all major news media in Sacramento and Elk Grove. Essentially, this has become Elk Grove’s own me too movement. The women accused Steve Ly of standing by while supporters launched inappropriate attacks. EGUSD Board Trustee Bobbie Singh Allen and Trustee Nancy Chaires Espinoza, Cosumnes CSD Director Jaclyn Moreno, Planning Commissioner Mackenzie Wieser, Elk Grove Tribune owner and Editor-In-Chief Dr. Jacqueline Cheung, former campaign manager Linda Vwj, and former mayoral candidate Michelle Kile all allege harassment, bullying, and intimidation tactics. They proposed that the City of Elk Grove take the following steps toward:
- Strengthening the city’s harassment policy.
- A clear reporting and investigative process for both staff and residents.
- Creating a third-party compliance hotline where employees and residents can make reports of harassment.
- Creating a city-wide committee on the status of women and girls.
The City Council declined to implement these changes. Undaunted, the women intend to continue to press the City Council to make these changes moving forward. It is still possible for Mayor Ly to be censured in the future. City Council Member Stephanie Nguyen indicated that she would be open to setting out policies and procedures for censoring on the City Council at a future meeting.
In conclusion, it is clear that the Elk Grove mayoral race this fall will be interesting. Since the time frame of the grand jury investigation is unknown, it remains to be seen how the grand jury investigation will affect the election. All of the women who have come forward expect to be subpoenaed by the grand jury.