Earlier this year, the Clerk of the Board’s office instituted 8 days of mandatory furlough for all staff through the end of the year. With furloughs, the county agrees to pay the full cost of employee medical benefits and grant full hours worked credit towards retirement eligibility. Non-management staff must pay the full amount of their retirement contributions for those hours as though they were being paid. However, in the case of a manager like Hieu “Hugh” Nguyen, the county picks up that cost. All he is out is the base pay for the hours he is on furlough.
In the memo from the Clerk of the Board all employees of the department were asked to consider whether they would like to volunteer to take additional furlough days to help out the overall budget situation and possibly reduse the number of mandatory furlough days for this year. To great fanfare in his department, Hugh Nguyen graciously volunteered to take an additional 24 hours off each pay period through the end of the fiscal year. He currently works 24 hours per week as a manager, but while collecting the full value of his pension and medical benefits as though he were working full time. For the record, Nguyen has arranged to work Tuesdays through Thursdays every week. Either this guy is a “fantastic” manager or the four (4) people he “manages” don’t really need a manager.
So why is Mr. Nguyen so willing to take time off without pay? Is it because he is running for Clerk-Recorder and the time off will provide him with the opportunity to campaign?
While running his campaign for Clerk-Recorder may be part of his motivation, there appears to be a bigger reason. Mr. Nguyen is sandwiching in his time between his county manager gig and running his Lee’s Sandwiches shop in Santa Ana.
Nguyen claims on his Statement of Economic Interest disclosure form that he is a consultant for OC Food Enterprises, LLC. Mr. Nguyen can be found behind the counter at his sandwich shop on Mondays and Fridays.
I have asked Mr. Nguyen to explain his relationship with OC Food Enterprises, LLC. He has refused to answer any of my questions. I cannot speculate what his answers might be, but I can show what the facts are related to Hieu Nguyen and OC Food Enterprises, LLC based upon public records.
Hieu Nguyen is the Agent for process of service for OC Food Enterprises, LLC as shown on the records of the Secretary of State. The address for this entity is Mr. Nguyen’s home address. While other parties are named in the initial Fictitious Business Name application, processed before the business was incorporated, the place of business listed is Hieu Nguyen’s home address.
Then we have the matter of the business license on file with the City of Santa Ana. OC Food Enterprises, LLC is named as the owner of the Lee’s Sandwiches shop on Bristol Street in Santa Ana, and the business phone number is Mr. Nguyen’s personal cell phone number.
Maybe it’s just me, but I have to wonder if there isn’t more to Mr. Nguyen’s relationship with this enterprise than a consulting contract. Hieu Nguyen has told some people that he owns the sandwich shop, and others that it is his uncle’s business and he is only helping out a family member. Mr. Nguyen has told so many stories about this business and his relationship to it that it is difficult to get a clear picture of what that relationship really is. Nguyen’s refusal to answer any questions only clouds the picture more.
When Hugh Nguyen announced that he still intended to seek the office once the incumbent Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly decided to seek reelection, Nguyen made a claim in a letter to his supporters that was a bit suspect to say the least.
“The spending at the Clerk-Recorder’s Office is massively over budget. The morale of the employees is at an all time low. Tom is not available to meet with industry leaders in the mortgage and title insurance, and has been rarely seen at his office. Leaders at the County know that Tom is taking advantage of his elected position and not performing the department head duties that have been entrusted to him. Over the next few weeks, more information will be coming out questioning whether Tom Daly has fulfilled his duties in a forthright and earnest manner. The public deserves a committed professional who will work full-time as the Clerk Recorder.”
As I pointed out a couple of months ago, the Clerk-Recorder’s office was actually under budget at the time, and still is. Costs in that department have dropped over the past several years even though they have added two satellite offices without adding any additional staff positions. This is all information that is now, and was then, available to Mr. Nguyen. As a manager with the Clerk of the Board’s office, one would think that he would have the capacity to read a financial report.
I asked Mr. Nguyen to explain what he meant by “massively over budget” in an email to him and his campaign consultant. I have yet to get a response to that inquiry. Absent a response I am left with only one available conclusion. Mr. Nguyen either doesn’t have an answer, can’t read a financial report, or was simply making stuff up for the benefit of promoting his candidacy.
On his campaign website Mr. Nguyen lists as his #1 Goal to Reduce Department Expenses by $500,000 over the first 12 months
The workload of the Clerk-Recorder has decreased due to the drop in the real estate transactions and downturn in the economy. The staff levels need to be reviewed and staff reductions should be considered. In light of the reduced volume of transactions and reduced recording income, I believe a smaller management organizational structure should be implemented and I will examine the organization from top to bottom to find savings for the County and taxpayers. I will review the need of each management and administrative position to determine if it is needed and whether an alternative smaller management structure should be implemented.
What Nguyen conveniently forgets to mention is that while the Clerk-Recorder’s office has maintained a consistent staffing level of 102 staff members for the past 8 years, the overall operating expenditures budget for the Clerk-Recorder’s office have been reduced during the economic downturn by 11.54% since the 2007-08. Again, we have a county manager who simply cannot read and understand a budget.
On his campaign website Hieu Nguyen says that he has leadership, experience and integrity. As far as experience is concerned, I am not sure how much good his experience managing 4 employees in a tiny records management department in the Clerk of the Board’s office really qualifies him to supervise the Clerk-Recorder’s office of more than 100 employees.
I am not really sure that Hieu Nguyen has developed the leadership ability to manage the Office of Clerk recorder when he cannot even hang around his current job for more than 24 hours a week.
I am not really confident in the integrity of a person who cannot seen to be straight forward about his business relationship with OC Food enterprises, LLC; misrepresents his position title of Assistant Clerk of the Board as some major responsibility when he only supervises 4 employees on a virtually part-time basis, and cannot even honestly comment on the budget performance of the current Clerk-Recorder.
Hieu Nguyen said; “The public deserves a committed professional who will work full-time as the Clerk Recorder.”
All I see here is a senior manager in the Clerk of the Board’s office, collecting his taxpayer funded full-time pension and medical benefits while working part time. I see a guy focused more on taking advantage of the budget shortfalls in his department to his personal financial gain so he can run his own business and campaign for an elected position, than someone focused on doing right by the taxpayers.
I see a guy, who is willing to mislead the public about his business interests, his name, as well as his job title in order to pump up phony credentials for his ballot designation. I see a guy who will lie about the budget performance of his opponent for political gain.
I am left wondering if Hieu Nguyen is elected, will the public get a committed professional who will work full-time as the Clerk Recorder or, will Hieu Nguyen continue to sandwich his time between his responsibilities to the public and his sandwich shop.