2 FUSD trustees want inquiry into Vang's residency

The Fresno BeeMay 24, 2012 

Two Fresno Unified school trustees said Thursday they want a state agency to determine whether board president Tony Vang is eligible to serve on the board in light of questions about whether he lives in the district.

Trustees Larry Moore and Michelle Asadoorian said they will ask the Fresno County Office of Education for legal advice and call for the Fresno County District Attorney's Office and state agencies to investigate Vang -- and take any steps necessary to "maintain the integrity of the board," Asadoorian said.

Vang's residency issue was first reported in Thursday's Bee. He says he has lived in his McLane High School trustee district since he was first elected in 2002. But property, court and election documents link him to a house in the Clovis Unified School District, and neighbors there say that's where Vang lives.

Uncertainty over Vang's residency hinders the school board's ability to do its work, Asadoorian said. If Vang does not live in the district, he does not meet legal requirements to hold office and could be disqualified. The validity of his past votes could be challenged.

California education code and government code mandate trustees live within the district they serve. FUSD policy also requires that trustees reside within the portion of the district they represent. Vang's McLane High trustee area stretches from Belmont Avenue as far north as Shaw Avenue in central Fresno.

However, voting records show that from December 2007 to April 2010 Vang was registered to vote -- and did vote -- as a resident of a house at 2103 E. Goshen Ave. in northeast Fresno in Clovis Unified. And as recently as last month, Vang signed a traffic court document listing the Goshen Avenue house as his home address.

Vang has owned the house on Goshen since April 2005. Neighbors say he lives there with his wife and small child.

Vang has not returned several messages left this week on his cell and home phones; the trustee also did not attend Wednesday's school board meeting. A district spokeswoman said he was on vacation.

On Thursday, the district continued to defend Vang, citing the fact that a house Vang says he is renting on East Fountain Way is within his trustee area. The district has pinned any confusion over Vang's residency on a "potential clerical error" at the Fresno County Elections Office.

County election officials interviewed by The Bee never raised concerns about the accuracy of the records, but said on Wednesday they would review Vang's voting history. Findings from that investigation will be released today.

Asadoorian said that Vang should recuse himself until the matter is resolved by an outside agency. Vang's residency is as much a legal issue as it is an ethical one, trustees said.

"Tell the truth, do the right thing," Moore said.

Vang's absence could affect the board's balance of power. Vang routinely votes with the board majority for Superintendent Michael Hanson's recommendations, while Asadoorian and Moore often question Hanson's leadership and policies.

Calls placed Thursday to board members Valerie Davis, Cal Johnson and Janet Ryan were not immediately returned. Trustee Carol Mills said in an email that she had never been to Vang's house and had no knowledge of his residence. She said that in her experience on the board, the county Elections Office was responsible for verifying residency requirements.

But Asadoorian said the district should know where the trustees live without help from the Elections Office -- the district delivers documents to trustees' homes a few times a month. The district has used a courier service in the past and required trustees to sign for the documents at their address, Asadoorian said.

The owner of ASAP Courier Service in Fresno said Thursday his company had delivered packets for Fresno Unified in the past. David Parsa said the courier who delivered them no longer works for the company, and he couldn't provide more information about the deliveries.

Fresno Unified has not responded to The Bee's public records request sent Monday for more information about courier services and trustee home addresses.

District staff members also make house visits, Moore said. He said the district has installed a phone line at his house so he could receive faxes, and FUSD workers went to Moore's house to set up the fax machine and a computer.

Moore said the board discussed the importance of verifying all trustee addresses in December after Fresno Unified adjusted attendance boundary lines. However, there was no follow-up, Moore said.

During Wednesday's board meeting, Fresno Teachers Association president Greg Gadams said the union has suspected that Vang lived in Clovis Unified. Gadams said the FTA considered hiring a private investigator to check out its hunch, but they didn't follow through.

Vang and his wife, Chia Me Vang, bought the Goshen house for about $400,000 in 2005, according to the deed of trust, which says the home was to be the couple's principal residence.

Vang has said that he is renting a house at 3943 E. Fountain Way, following the foreclosure of another house on Garland Avenue.

Fresno Unified's public relations staff has launched a campaign portraying Vang as the victim of the nationwide mortgage crisis, forced to live in a rental house near McLane High while he supports a son at Stanford University.

Moore said the district's spin on the situation disturbed him. "It's taking taxpayer money and defending a board member in ... a legal issue," he said.

Staff writer Alex Tavlian contributed to this report. The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412. hsomerville@fresnobee.com or @heathersomervil on Twitter.

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