Inquiry into campaign event ordered by council majority – ORANGE COUNTY TRIBUNE


CONTROVERSY the campaign event at Westminster City Hall will be investigated.

By Jim Tortolano/Orange County Grandstand

Where is the line between permitted political speech and holding a campaign event for a job seeker on the steps of City Hall?

Westminster City Council spent hours on Friday discussing a June 24 event at which council member Chi Charlie Nguyen announced his candidacy for mayor of the civic centre.

The majority of the board ultimately chose to investigate further.

Was the event a violation of state law? Nguyen and his supporters said no. A majority of the city council said that was probably the case.

California Government Code Sec. 8314 says:

“It is illegal for any elected state or local official, including any state or local employee, or consultant to use or permit others to use public resources for campaign activity, or for personal or other purposes not permitted by law.”

Both parties disagreed on how the code should be viewed in relation to the event in question.

In a memo from city manager Christine Cordon written by city attorney Christian Bettenhausen, it was stated that no city policy prohibited such activity there. In summary, the memo states that “political speech…is a highly protected form of speech under the First Amendment. It does not fall into a lower category of speech simply because the speaker is a politician.

However, the memo does not specifically state whether the status code applies in this case.

After hours of public comment, wrangling and – often – repetition of the same points, the council finally decided by a 3-2 vote (with Nguyen and Mayor Ta voting no) to have a police officer document the incident. and refer the matter to the state attorney general and/or district attorney.

A lengthy discussion included accusations that city officials could have been “bullied” into complying as well as arguments that there had been an attempt to strip Nguyen of his constitutional rights.


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