Fresno Unified school board President Vang voted outside district

Elections Office confirms timeline.

The Fresno BeeMay 25, 2012 

The Fresno County Elections Office released documents Friday confirming that Fresno Unified school board President Tony Vang registered to vote and did vote from a home outside school district boundaries.

County elections chief Brandi Orth released Vang's voting history after officials verified records dating back to 1988. According to those records, Vang's registered address from 2007 to 2010 was a house he owns on East Goshen Avenue in the Clovis Unified School District. He voted from that northeast Fresno house while continuing to serve on the Fresno Unified School District school board.

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.

The newly released records match the detailed voting history reported this week by The Bee in a story that investigated Vang's residence. The Elections Office released the information after remarks by Fresno Unified about possible errors in Vang's voter records.

Over the past few days, the district has defended Vang by releasing its own timeline of Vang's residential history -- which omits the Goshen Avenue address -- and portraying him as a victim of the foreclosure crisis, living in a rental home in the McLane High area he's elected to represent.

However, on Friday, Fresno Unified had no response to the county's voting records, which place him on Goshen Avenue for at least several years. In a text message, Vang said he hadn't seen the records and would respond on Tuesday.

Voter records show that the U.S. Postal Service notified the county Elections Office in December 2007 that Vang's address had changed from 3334 E. Garland Ave. -- a house he used to own in the McLane area -- to 2103 E. Goshen Ave.

Vang and his wife, Chia Me Vang, bought the Goshen Avenue house two years earlier, in 2005; Vang retained ownership of the Garland house and ran for re-election in 2006.

There were three elections while Vang was registered at Goshen Avenue. In one of those elections, county records suggest Vang knew the elections department had listed his address as 2103 E. Goshen Ave. Vang would have confirmed the address was correct when he came to the elections department to request an absentee ballot for the November 2008 general election, Orth said.

Records show Vang requested by mail an absentee ballot for the June 2008 primary election. The ballot was mailed to Goshen Avenue, and Vang used it to vote absentee.

He re-registered at Garland Avenue in April 2010 -- just months before the school board election that year, when he was re-elected.

In April 2011, the Garland house went into foreclosure. In August, the Elections Office received a postal service change of address to 3943 E. Fountain Way, a house Vang says his family is renting. He told a Bee reporter last week that he had lived there for 10 years.

But Vang and his wife still own the Goshen property, which they bought for $400,000, according to property records. According to the deed of trust, the home was to be the couple's principal residence.

"When it says in a contract that you must live in a house, that's a fact. Facts can be inconvenient things," said trustee Larry Moore.

Vang answered the door at Goshen Avenue during a Bee visit last week; he immediately said he didn't live there. However, two neighbors told Bee reporters that Vang lives at the house; one said he and his wife and daughter had been there for several years. And last month, Vang signed a traffic court document listing 2103 E. Goshen Ave. as his address.

Vang has not responded to The Bee's requests for interviews this week. He was absent from the district board meeting on Wednesday; a spokeswoman said he was on vacation.

Efforts by Fresno Unified to defend Vang smack of a possible district cover-up, said trustee Michelle Asadoorian.

"Fresno Unified has used all their resources in the last week to insulate and protect Dr. Vang," Asadoorian said.

Vang, who was first elected to the board in 2002, is a reliable supporter of Superintendent Michael Hanson. On a split board, his votes help keep the majority on Hanson's side.

Trustees Asadoorian and Moore sent a letter on Friday to Hanson requesting a detailed account of resources allotted to Vang's residency issues, including legal counsel and staff hours.

When questioned about Hanson's response to the letter, district Chief Information Officer Jamilah Fraser told The Bee to file a public-records request. Fraser also said the district would require a public-records request to answer questions about how the district verifies trustees' home addresses and whether it will investigate Vang's residency.

Asadoorian and Moore sent a second letter to fellow board members on Friday requesting a special meeting to discuss pursuing an investigation into Vang's residence history. Asadoorian said she also wants to know "who knew what and when" about Vang's residence.

Trustee Carol Mills said in an email she didn't think the school board was the proper body to decide if Vang meets residency laws and would let attorneys decide if an investigation is warranted.

Trustees Janet Ryan, Valerie Davis and Cal Johnson have not responded to emails and phone calls from The Bee this week.

Fresno Unified keeps records of trustees' current addresses to deliver documents to their homes several times a month, according to some trustees.

The district has not responded to a public-records request The Bee sent Monday to obtain trustees' home addresses and information about courier services used to deliver documents to the homes of board members.

Asadoorian said the community would be unable to trust the board until the district and Vang addressed questions about his residence: "To do nothing is unacceptable."


FRESNO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT TIMELINE

The Fresno Unified School District released a statement Tuesday that included a timeline charting what it says is Trustee Tony Vang's residency since he was elected in 2002.

2002 Vang's residential address is 656 E. Ashlan Ave.

2004 Vang's residential address is 3334 E. Garland Ave.

April 21, 2011 Vang relocates to 3943 E. Fountain Way (the district says a change of address with DMV confirms the new address).

April 26, 2011 Vang loses the 3334 E. Garland home to foreclosure.

Aug. 9, 2011 The 3334 E. Garland home is sold by "Bank" to a new owner.

May 21, 2012 Vang votes in current presidential primary election based on home at 3943 E. Fountain Way.


FRESNO COUNTY ELECTIONS OFFICE TIMELINE

The Fresno County Elections Office released a timeline Friday charting Trustee Tony Vang's voter registration and voting record since 1988. Highlights:

March 25, 1988 Vang is registered to vote at 656 E. Ashlan Ave.

Sept. 17, 2004 Vang re-registered at 3334 E. Garland Ave.

Dec. 28, 2007 The Elections Office received a U.S. Postal Service change-of-address notification for Vang and changed his registration address to 2103 E. Goshen Ave., which is in the Clovis Unified School District. A confirmation postcard should have been mailed to the voter, but there is no record that it was.

Feb. 5, 2008 election Vang is registered at 2103 E. Goshen Ave. Vang voted provisionally at Precinct 135 in the Fresno Unified School District. Vang filled out the provisional ballot envelope listing 3334 E. Garland Ave. as his address.

June 3, 2008 election The Elections Office received a written vote-by-mail ballot request by mail from Vang and sent the ballot to his registered address on 2103 E. Goshen Ave. Vang voted and returned the vote-by-mail ballot. The sample ballot was also mailed to the 2103 E. Goshen Ave. address and was not sent back "return to sender."

Nov. 4, 2008 election Vang came in person to the Elections Office and requested and received a vote-by-mail ballot. The office protocol is to verify the voter's name and address with the voter before issuing a ballot. Vang was still registered at 2103 E. Goshen Ave. The vote-by-mail ballot was issued to Vang in person. The ballot was never returned.

April 27, 2010 Vang re-registered at 3334 E. Garland Ave.

Aug. 2, 2011 The Elections Office received a U.S. Postal Service change-of-address notification changing Vang's address to 3943 E. Fountain Way.

Staff writers George Hostetter and John Ellis contributed to this report. The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, hsomerville@fresnobee.com or @heathersomervil on Twitter.

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