A Retraction of Sorts and an Endorsement of None in the First District Supervisor’s Race

This is not an easy post to write, and it is not a post that is going to make anyone happy.

Blogger Sean Mill reported May 17th that the Hoa Van Tran campaign for First District Supervisor requested the return of “stolen” laptop computer from a former employee whose name was redacted. The charge was made in a May 15 letter from lawyers representing the campaign and suggested the campaign would file criminal charges of theft against this ex-employee. To my knowledge, no such charges have been filed with local police authorities.

The person the letter was addressed to has since gone public. Her name is Misha Houser, a consultant formerly employed by the campaign. Misha has produced a copy if her employment agreement with the campaign which calls for a laptop to be given to her as part of her compensation package. Misha provided us with detailed notes of communications with members of the campaign and items discussed. Misha also provided The LiberalOC.com with a copy of her resignation letter. The campaign maintains she was fired.

Photos belonging to the campaign showing Latino youth were published on various blogs including this one. They were suggestions that these young men displayed gang signs or gestures. I do not know what a gang sign or gesture is so if their photo depicts some sort of gang “language” well, it’s lost on me. I believe there is room in the Democratic Party for young men and women of any race to participate in a campaign like Hoa Van Tran’s at all levels. But if any of them have affiliations with gangs and carry gang behavior with them to their work, then their help on any such campaign is not welcome and should be prohibited. I have received a number of emails and phone calls from proponents of both Misha Houser and the campaign of Hoa Van Tran. I have made two phone calls: one to Misha to ask specific questions and get specific answers. I spoke for a considerably longer period of time with Edgardo Reynoso, the campaign manager of the Hoa Van Tran campaign.

The LiberalOC has received copies of an employee contract between the campaign and Misha Houser that spells out her compensation plan. The offer letter includes a laptop computer as part of her compensation, which I believe is not legal (unless the value of the laptop is accounted for on a 1099 or W-2). The letter is not signed, which is a problem for Misha. My first question to her was why her letter isn’t signed. She maintains she asked campaign officials more than 10 times, in the presence of witnesses. Misha kept very detailed notes covering what was talked about and who was there.

Through Sean Mill, I was put in touch with Edgardo Reynoso of the Hoa Van Tran campaign. I asked Edgardo several questions, many of which required a simple declarative answer, but which became soliloquies on this unique campaign and this unique candidate rather than actual answers to my questions. He blamed all of the campaign’s problems with filing its financial documents on Houser. I pointed out that a longtime Democratic Party accountant offered to complete the forms for them but was never given the transaction details to do the job, but Edgardo dodged that issue. He did answer certain questions directly and without hesitation; for example, he said the statement made on Red County that computers were purchased at Costco so they could be returned later was false.

We discussed the sloppy record keeping further, and he kept saying that these reports are amended all the time. I asked why some expenditures on the first report didn’t make it to the revised report, but he dodged that question by changing the subject as he did repeatedly during our conversation. It was frustrating. Edgardo believes he is a master of spin, but by avoiding giving answers to simple and direct questions, he demonstrated he’s not. The most poignant part of our conservation was a discussion of ethics. He asked if I thought it was unethical for Houser to (allegedly) send photos and information on the campaign to bloggers. My response was “if she is exposing unethical or illegal activity, then yes, it’s ethical.”

Edgardo is passionate about this race and it shows. He left me with the impression his assessment of you depends upon whether or not you agree with him. But in my opinion, he failed to directly answer some very answerable questions about the campaign and in light of the sloppy record keeping, I am not surprised that Houser’s offer letter wasn’t signed. I asked Edgardo for three simple answers that he could not immediately provide. I asked for a Word copy of the May 15 letter to Houser. I asked for the name of the person with the campaign responsible for drafting Houser’s contract. And I asked if all other campaign staffers have signed contracts. It has been nearly 4 days, and the only answer I have is a scanned image of the May 15 letter and not the Word document.

I said at the beginning, this post would please no one.

For Misha Houser, your employment contract is not signed. In spite of your efforts to get it signed, which I believe to be true, you’ll be gambling on a judge or a jury to determine who is more truthful – you or Edgardo. Fortunately for you, you have several witnesses who can vouch for your story and some of them are still with the campaign (to them, I remind them that perjury is a felony). I also don’t believe you can willingly accept a laptop as compensation without making an accommodation to pay taxes on the fair market value of the laptop. But by all means, hold on to the laptop until these geniuses pay you your final check. They can’t be dumb enough to sue for this, can they?

Never start a new job without a signed offer letter.

For the campaign, if Houser was fired for gross incompetence, honestly, how could you tell?  After she left, mailers went out with a typo in the web address that now takes people interested in learning about Hoa Van Tran to a  gay porn site.

Your campaign record keeping is, in a word – awful.  You look like a bunch of amateurs.  Placing the blame solely on the shoulders of Misha Houser and the punitive threats made to return a stolen laptop are nothing short of harassment.  It’s unprofessional.  Unseemly.  And whether or not she quit or was fired, those in charge failed to protect the information critical to the campaign by not taking the laptop and wiping the hard drive.  You have lawyers in the office to advise you and surely someone once worked in HR.

Threats and intimidation only work on those who choose to be threatened or intimidated.  I’m not.  Whether or not the young men and women who volunteered for the campaign are affiliated with gangs or not (and I don’t know if they are), their presence created a hostile work environment.  Complaints by the staff to the management needed to be take seriously and they simply weren’t.  There are laws prohibiting hostile work environments in all enterprises, and political campaigns are not exempt from these laws.

I have received many phone calls over the past two days suggesting unbelievable conspiracy theories by Party Officials against the Campaign and vice-versa. I suggest all this energy consumed to enact revenge against Misha Houser and the staff of the DPOC would be much better used explaining to voters why Hoa Van Tran would be a better First District Supervisor than either Janet Nguyen or Dina Nguyen.

I also received phone calls accusing this blog of being in cahoots (dare I say, “canoodling”) with the Red County blog or secretly wishing for another term of Supervisor Janet Nguyen.  Wrong.  I think Janet Nguyen has established quite clearly that every vote and every action she takes is to first make certain it reflects positively on her for this and future elections.  You can see she’s already gearing up for that run for assembly or State Senate (or dare I say it, Congress?).  Janet did that big walk against gang violence.  Remember — it was plastered all over The Orange Juice.  And yet Gang Violence remains a problem.  What’s the matter with you Gangbangers?  Don’t you know that Janet marched?  Also, Janet has had her share of campaign filing issues and only recently settled a non-payment with consultant Jimmy Camp.  She’s not significantly better than either of her opponents no matter how much of a Jan-Crush other blogs have on her.

Dina Nguyen just seems to be in way over her head.  From filing problems, to underpayment of property taxes, to the extra R in “Supervisor,” one has to wonder, is this the best Van Tran could do?

And on to Hoa Van Tran. I’m told he is a smart, kind, and respected person.  And while I believe the Democratic Party needs to reach out to Democrats in the Vietnamese community, we need to find candidates with more positives than negatives.
 
Candidates who favor ethical behavior over questionable practices.  And someone not afraid to tell his staff what is right and what is wrong.  Hoa Van Tran doesn’t seem to be that candidate.

I don’t know what Hoa Van Tran stands for.  I don’t know any of his positions on any of the issues.  I see a campaign being run on fear, intimidation, rumor, innuendo, and threats of recriminations.  I see sloppy report filings and record keeping (a problem with all candidates for First District Supervisor).  If I lived in this district, I would have no reason to vote for Hoa Van other than knowing he is a Democrat in a non-partisan race.  But his campaign is being run without any appearance of ethics or positive values, and ultimately, that’s Hoa Van Tran’s responsibility.

The Party doesn’t get off easy either.

The DPOC played a waiting game.  Waiting for Joe Dunn to declare.  No plan B. No plan C. No plan D in case Joe Dunn said no.  And when Joe said no, he left no time for the Party to find a suitable replacement that had the needed name recognition or fundraising ability to run a race against Janet Nguyen.  Hoa Van Tran steps up to the plate to run and while he gets the Party endorsement, he gets little support.  Now I see why.

The second mistake the DPOC made was removing the motion to withdraw the endorsement of Hoa Van Tran at the last Party meeting.  And this may be rectified Tuesday, but this should have been handled lat week.  Chairman Frank Barbaro only saw that a financial report was filed and not a financial report riddled with mistakes.  And he removed the item from the agenda.

The campaign did themselves no favors by bringing an army of campaign workers to last week’s central committee meeting whose role seemed to be to intimidate the members in attendance.  If these young people are truly interested in politics, have them work the room, meet and greet, shake some hands.  That didn’t happen. I kinda hope they show up this week and that the Santa Ana Police are there with any outstanding warrants in case any of these young people aren’t as innocent as they look.

I’m left with two things to do.

Based on detailed notes and eyewitness accounts and confirmations from multiple sources, I believe the offer letter provided to Misha Houser to be authentic.  While the letter reported in a May 17 post by Sean Mill has been authenticated as being from the campaign, the charge that the laptop was stolen does not seem credible.  Therefore, while Sean Mill accurately posted a development from the campaign of Hoa Van Tran, we no longer find the charge the laptop was stolen to be credible and we retract that portion of the post.

In the First District Supervisor’s race, TheLiberalOC.com endorses no one.  My advice, leave this race blank. And that should quell those who think we’re  canoodling with Janet or Dina.

I said no one would be happy with this post.  I’m not. But for perspective, my wife is in Boston this weekend so she can spend time with her oldest friend.  This women’s son, a boy who calls me “uncle” has a serious form of cancer.  I love politics, but it’s just petty compared to what he’s facing. Get well Ben.

  16 comments for “A Retraction of Sorts and an Endorsement of None in the First District Supervisor’s Race

  1. May 25, 2008 at 12:18 am

    Well put, Dan!
    Those who refuse to take responsibility for their behavior usually try the four Ds to get out of their situation.
    – Delay
    – Deny
    – Distract
    – Destroy
    Will someone (anyone) stand up and take responsibility for all of this – Hoa? Edgardo? Anybody?

  2. Paul Lucas
    May 25, 2008 at 1:15 am

    Dan,
    I was at the DPOC meeting at which all those Campaign Volunteers entered the room to show support. I can say with absolute certainty and life experience in growing up with this segment of our society that not a one of these kids appeared, or exhibited any behavior one would attribute to that of a Cholo, or Chola, or chavala for that matter.

    What I saw was a group of kids that could have been at Benny Diaz’s home the weekend before for the LULAC youth bar b Que. I liked the post none the less. I do have to disagree with you on a few points though and I hope you understand that this is very much congenial and respectful disagreement before the peanut gallery starts throwing hand grenades at me.

    First, and foremost, the role of the workers you stated as their sole role to be to intimidate the members of the committee with their presence. I take a bit of umbrage (hope I spelled that right) with that statement. You were not in attendance and are relying solely on the reports of someone who obviously has a slanted view of the Hoa van Tran campaign or Edgardo in general. These kids looked like your average kids you would see at any mall, movie complex, or any other typical teenage hangout. They did not in any way in their dress, hair style, body jewelry, make up, body language, or speech they did not say a word, exhibit any behavior that I would find to be of the intent to intimidate or influence anyone in their decision. Their role as I see it was to show to the committee the number of young volunteers that the campaign was able to get to come and get involved in the political process. I say this because I know some of these kids and they are some of the best kids you can find that live in a very difficult environment in Santa Ana. They are not gang bangers.

    Second, your encouraging people to stay out of this race and to basically not even vote since none of the candidates seem to be fit for office seems to be counter productive. I suggest that the best situation in this race which is a primary is to hope and work for the result of the incumbent Republican being forced into a runoff for November. This will present three positive outcomes for the DPOC. The first being that the incumbent Republican will not be able to rest on her laurels, and help other Republican campaigns in OC and rebuild the bridges she has burned in OC by helping to trounce Democratic Candidates in the County. Additionally, if the run off is between the incumbent and Dina, we can all sit back with a bowl of popcorn and watch the Reps have a cannibal fest. Even further, if it is between Hoa and the incumbent, there will be plenty of time for Hoa to get more professional in his operation and possibly find a new campaign manager. As I am sure eve Misha Houser will agree, Hoa Van Tran is a good and honorable person. And if he is the lone Dem standing come June 4th, he could use our support to the betterment of the Democratic Party gaining ground in the Vietnamese Community.

    Third, as far as the party reaching out to candidates with more positives than negatives, I would say that the party needs to get more involved in the candidates development. No one recruited Hoa Van Tran to run. He jumped in himself. Where the party and the leadership failed was in not taking the opportunity to cease on a chance to take a leading role in developing a segway into the Vietnamese Community by getting very much involved in Hoa’s candidacy and development as a candidate. Not that I am saying it is the parties responsibility to do so. However, a rare and serendipitous opportunity arose and instead of ceasing upon it, the party (leadership) walked away. This is the same reason the Republican Party has been able to secure and maintain such a strong hold on the Vietnamese Community whose priorities are clearly that of Democratic Values: (See Van Tran and Janet Nguyen’s community services offices which assist the Viet Community with housing healthcare, senior meals on wheels, social security etc.)

    I’m going to continue this in another comment because it is getting too long to continue in one comment. Just remember this. Bolsavik nailed it on the head when he said that the Vietnamese Community is dead set in opposition to Communism, but when it comes to social and quality of life issues, they are about as Republican as John Edwards. They are Democrats in their values and we the Party (leadership) allowed a golden opportunity to slip right on by.

  3. Well said!
    May 25, 2008 at 8:55 am

    You nailed it Dan. I agree with 99% of your post. Hoa Van Tran is not in control of his campaign, which is unfortunate. The intimidation tactics have been horrible. KimChi bringing those kids to the Central Committee was an absolute circus and embarrassing for his campaign.Reynoso not answering direct questions about the race and instead blaming others on his incompetent direction is very telling. It demonstrates that he is not a experienced leader, but a hack that takes credit for victories that are not his own.

    Allowing a hostile work environment is UNACCEPTABLE. Paul, Sean and other DPOC hacks can spin it all they want, but sexual and emotional harrassment is NOT OKAY. Defending it is NOT OKAY. It doesn’t matter if the candidate is a woman or a minority. As Dems we need to stand up and not allow candidates and their campaigns into intimidating us to accept them. Sorry Paul. That means rejecting your pathetic spin as well.

  4. Joey
    May 25, 2008 at 10:22 am

    I thought I read that it was Benny Diaz himself who thought the group of youngster were more intimidating than anything positive. Is this correct.

    So I guess Paul spin is calling Benny as having a “slanted view” of Hoa Van TRan

  5. Dan Chmielewski
    May 25, 2008 at 10:42 am

    Paul — I never said those kids were gangbangers but if you don’t believe they didn’t have an intimidating affect on others in the room, you are sorely mistaken.

    Where did the Communism thing come from Paul? We’re no longer in dangerof threats from communism. But I’d welcome an explanation from conservative Republicans like Janet Nguyen why they have no objection to the USA taking billions from the Communist Chinese to fund our massively growing Republican-administration-created national debt.

    Its been pointed out to me that the First District supes race is non-partisan; but Janet has no problem showing her conservative colors.

  6. Paul Lucas
    May 25, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Dan,
    I agree with you on janet showing her conservative colors. Just like when she used the immigration issue in her mailers for the special election when she won that seat in the first place. As far as the members being intimidated, I was there. I did not see anyone exhibiting behavior that they were intimidated. In fact Benny Diaz asked the group of kids to fill in the empty seats in the room. They did and they all took empty seats next to members. Not one member of the central committee got up to move away from one of these kids which would show that they felt intimidated by their presence.

    So Im telling you that what I saw was different from what is being reported to you in regards to intimidation. I just simply did not see anyone exhibit behavior that would indicate that they felt intimidated.

    The communism issue I mentioned is reiterating a statement that Bolsavik made many times in the blogs. Basically the Viet Community believes in issues that are traditionally held by Democrats. And that the Democratic Party missed a golden opportunity to get into the Vietnamese Community by not getting very much involved with the Hoa Van Tran campaign early on.

  7. That includes Paul.
    May 25, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    That includes you Paul. You didn’t get involved in Hoa’s campaign early because you were too busy filing for the very seat Hoa had. Please stop trying to be the DPOC martar. And your argument about Hoa’s volunteers doesn’t hold water. Reynoso and KimChi brought the kids in to disrupt the meeting and garner unwanted attention to the task at hand. Barbaro asked everyone to sit down to prevent the kids from marching around the room and keep order. People may or may not have been initiminated by the group, but you do not speak from everyone in that room.

    Florice Hoffman had it right. What you did was stupid. You have really poor judgement, you accuse people of things that are not true, you continue to put words in people’s mouth. If you have any hope left to win a sit on GG City Council, you need to shut up. If you don’t want to win, just keep talking and making dumb mistake after dumb mistake.

  8. Johnny
    May 25, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    These comments really have me thinking, thank you all. We really did miss an opportunity to make a positie inroad into the Viet community. For my part I was busy watching the circus of events unfold. I’d like to go to the DPOC Tuesday night to see for myself because its hard sometimes to get a clear picture from the competing directions in the blogsphere.

    The trouble is that even when good people get involved campaigns can be turned and through inaction or reaction tank. We lose candidates whenever that happens – Paul and Hoa were damaged this cycle – and people willing to enter public service are in short supply.

    I can’t help but think that much of this is due to Van Tran and the time has come to address his empire building. That will require a long term strategy and nothing we’ve done this cycle advances that cause.

  9. Misha Houser
    May 25, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    “As I am sure even Misha Houser will agree, Hoa Van Tran is a good and honorable person. ”

    Paul, don’t put words in my mouth either. I used to think Hoa was good and honorable until he refused to protect campaign workers, including myself from the daily bullying, harassment (physical, emotional, and otherwise), threats, and intimidation.

    I stayed much longer than I should have, thinking I was protecting Hoa’s candidacy. I finally had to come to the realization that if I wasn’t going to be protected, then I needed to get out of the campaign.

    Hoa would not even defend the Vietnamese phone bankers who were harassed and bullied to the point that they could not return, so the ridiculous statement you make about missing the opportunity to build stronger ties within the Vietnamese community is a joke. The harm was done from within the campaign, not by the Democratic party.

    As for the charge that no one was there to support Hoa early on, that’s another fairy tale. Help was offered, advice was given, all were ignored.

    Lastly Paul, you have no idea what it’s like to be a woman in that kind of environment. You have no idea what it means to worry about your safety because you’ve been threatened with harm, torn to pieces by rumor and innuendo, and having to worry each day whether someone is going to hurt you.

    I ask that those who read this consider what it means to those of us who endured such treatment. What it felt like to find that those who had the power to make it stop chose to do nothing, tacitly allowing such outrageous behavior to continue. They therefore sanctioned the hostile environment.

    I stayed silent out of fear. I came forward for the same reason.

  10. Dan Chmielewski
    May 25, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    Paul – you are missing the point of the post. Let me simplify. When I coached my girl’s 3rd and 4th grade basketball team, I would tell them, “play like you practice and practice like you play.”. If Hoa Van Tran is somehow elected, will he manage his office the same way he manages his campaign? If so, it’s not good enough.

  11. Paul Lucas
    May 25, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Misha,
    I was not aware of the environment in that office. I only visited Hoa’s office one or twice while you were there. I was very much surprised to see Edgardo there when I went there one day. It is unfortunate that you did not get to know me better. Had you, you would have known that if I had known about the situations you described I would be the first one to take the necessary actions.

    Most people who know me will tell you that I do not suffer bullies harassing those least able to defend themselves. The only time I heard you make any lamentations about the campaign was when the LA Times article came out. You called me to complain about Hoa’s comments and that he should not speak without vetting his responses through an intermediary first.

    I know about Edgardo and that he is a real piece of work. The situations you describe were not known to me. Had I known I would have taken some sort of action to put an end to those actions. Most likely with the help of Garden Groves finest.

  12. Dan Chmielewski
    May 26, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    I don’t see how any of this is your fight Paul.

  13. just...asking?
    May 26, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Dan,

    Excellent post!

    Reads like a history lesson of a failed campaign. Lots of blame to go around, but ultimately the responsibility must lie with the candidate. Hoa is a good guy, but just has not displayed the leadership necessary to be a supervisor (by the way I don’t think Janet has either). Democrat or otherwise he does not deserve our support.

    Your reply to Paul was my question also. Paul you respond like you were running Hoa’s campaign and you had the power to stop the harrassment of workers and volunteers. Is this like the time you got Loretta elected? Or Lou elected? Or damaged the political career of Van Tran? You must understand by now that your comments are hard to take based upon your actions of the last few months. TIP got it right Paul, you should heed that advice and lay low for a while if you are still serious about Garden Grove CC.

  14. alabaster-lentes
    May 27, 2008 at 4:48 am

    Danny boy

    can you please explain how you came to ask edgardo about the alleged incident on 55 or it appears that you are in cahoots?

    and no mention of Melahat’s role in allof this. Hmmm

  15. Dan Chmielewski
    May 27, 2008 at 8:59 am

    Since I made no such reference to this incident on the 55 in my post, I have to assume you are from the campaign Alabaster. I think I’ve mentioned I got a number of emails and phone calls from interested parties leading up to the crafting of the response. One such tip was the alleged “55 road rage” case. So to verify the information, I asked Edgardo what kind of car he drives. When his car and another belonging to Hoa Van Tran didn’t match the description of the car I was told was used in the alleged incident, the facts didn’t check out sufficietly enough for me to post this as a part of my story.

    But thanks to your question, everyone reading this will know that I asked Edgardo about it.

    Cahoots? No. Holding every bit of information given to me up to scruntiny, yes.

    And since you’re with the campaign, perhaps you can explain why I’m still waiting for Edgardo to get back to me with simple answers to direct questions.

    And since you’re with the campaign, leaving a summons at Misha’s door without handing it to her personally is not proper service. You guys are showing what amateurs you are at managing a campaign and with the decisions you’re making about where to focus your energies, you’re proving to everyone that Hoa Vn Tran has a bunch of clown shoes running his campaign.

  16. Not Dems/Not Reeps
    May 27, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Hoa Van Tran has close ties to the TRANNIES, especially Dina Nguyen, they were both endorsed by Van Tran and both are protected by the Trannies so that’s why they dare to bully people around. Houser, I feel for you becuase a lot of people in our community who really wants to voice their opinion about Dina are afraid to because of her close ties to gangsters & drug dealers and it’s a known fact.

    Banned Dina from Politics Says:

    May 23rd, 2008 at 11:27 am
    This is how Dina gets her face and her name covered in the local papers!!! By using paid writers and Van Tran’s influence over these local papers
    http://bolsavik.wordpress.com/2008/05/09/van-trans-camp-capture-of-viet-media/

    This is one of the reasons why people say Dina’s background is SHADY!!!
    http://orangejuiceblog.com/2008/05/was-dina-nguyens-brother-arrested-in-a-huge-international-drug-bust/

    This is JANET’S reponse to Dina and her clans dirty tricks of calling janet a COMMUNIST, how pathetic!!!
    http://bolsavik.wordpress.com/2008/05/20/janet-hits-back/

    This one you must read, it will tell you how DUMB this candidate is, it will also tell you that those that helped her campaign don’t even want the public to know; WHY? It will also tell you that Van is really the one behind this campaign, we know all along it’s Van Tran against Janet NOT Dina at all, she has no ability.
    http://bolsavik.wordpress.com/2008/04/28/dina-nguyen-interview-pt2-whos-who-in-her-campaign/

    Please read before you cast your vote

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