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 Ã¢â‚¬Å“stolenÃ¢â‚¬Â 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 Ã¢â‚¬Å“languageÃ¢â‚¬Â well, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 TranÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 campaignÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 Ã¢â‚¬Å“if she is exposing unethical or illegal activity, then yes, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ethical.Ã¢â‚¬Â
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 HouserÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s offer letter wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 HouserÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be gambling on a judge or a jury to determine who is more truthful Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 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 donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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?Ã‚Â 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 aÃ‚Â gay porn site.
Your campaign record keeping is, in a word Ã¢â‚¬â€œ awful.Ã‚Â You look like a bunch of amateurs.Ã‚Â 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.Ã‚Â ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s unprofessional.Ã‚Â Unseemly.Ã‚Â 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.Ã‚Â 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.Ã‚Â IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not.Ã‚Â Whether or not the young men and women who volunteered for the campaign are affiliated with gangs or not (and I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know if they are), their presence created a hostile work environment.Ã‚Â Complaints by the staff to the management needed to be take seriously and they simply werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t.Ã‚Â 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.Ã‚Â Wrong.Ã‚Â 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.Ã‚Â You can see sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s already gearing up for that run for assembly or State Senate (or dare I say it, Congress?).Ã‚Â Janet did that big walk against gang violence.Ã‚Â Remember — it was plastered all over The Orange Juice.Ã‚Â And yet Gang Violence remains a problem.Ã‚Â WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the matter with you Gangbangers?Ã‚Â DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t you know that Janet marched?Ã‚Â Also, Janet has had her share of campaign filing issues and only recently settled a non-payment with consultant Jimmy Camp.Ã‚Â SheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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.Ã‚Â From filing problems, to underpayment of property taxes, to the extra R in Ã¢â‚¬Å“Supervisor,Ã¢â‚¬Â one has to wonder, is this the best Van Tran could do?
And on to Hoa Van Tran. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m told he is a smart, kind, and respected person.Ã‚Â 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.Ã‚Â And someone not afraid to tell his staff what is right and what is wrong.Ã‚Â Hoa Van Tran doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seem to be that candidate.
I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know what Hoa Van Tran stands for.Ã‚Â I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know any of his positions on any of the issues.Ã‚Â I see a campaign being run on fear, intimidation, rumor, innuendo, and threats of recriminations.Ã‚Â I see sloppy report filings and record keeping (a problem with all candidates for First District Supervisor).Ã‚Â 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.Ã‚Â But his campaign is being run without any appearance of ethics or positive values, and ultimately, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Hoa Van TranÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s responsibility.
The Party doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get off easy either.
The DPOC played a waiting game.Ã‚Â Waiting for Joe Dunn to declare.Ã‚Â No plan B. No plan C. No plan D in case Joe Dunn said no.Ã‚Â 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.Ã‚Â Hoa Van Tran steps up to the plate to run and while he gets the Party endorsement, he gets little support.Ã‚Â 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.Ã‚Â And this may be rectified Tuesday, but this should have been handled lat week.Ã‚Â Chairman Frank Barbaro only saw that a financial report was filed and not a financial report riddled with mistakes.Ã‚Â And he removed the item from the agenda.
The campaign did themselves no favors by bringing an army of campaign workers to last weekÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s central committee meeting whose role seemed to be to intimidate the members in attendance.Ã‚Â If these young people are truly interested in politics, have them work the room, meet and greet, shake some hands.Ã‚Â That didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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.Ã‚Â 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.Ã‚Â 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 SupervisorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s race, TheLiberalOC.com endorses no one.Ã‚Â My advice, leave this race blank. And that should quell those who think we’reÃ‚Â canoodling with Janet or Dina.
I said no one would be happy with this post.Ã‚Â IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not. But for perspective, my wife is in Boston this weekend so she can spend time with her oldest friend.Ã‚Â This womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s son, a boy who calls me Ã¢â‚¬Å“uncleÃ¢â‚¬Â has a serious form of cancer.Ã‚Â I love politics, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just petty compared to what heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s facing. Get well Ben.