Recall targets Fresno Unified trustee Tony Vang

The Fresno BeeAugust 8, 2012 

A group of more than 25 community members, teachers and activists kicked off a campaign Wednesday to recall Fresno Unified trustee Tony Vang over allegations that he lived outside the McLane High School area he was elected to represent.

"It is sad, shameful and disappointing that we have to go down this road of recall," said Mai Summer Vue, who was ousted in late July as president of the Fresno Teachers Association.

Community United for Education Justice announced the recall campaign at a news conference at Fresno Unified's headquarters at Tulare Avenue and M Street.

County elections chief Brandi Orth said the recall process is complex, and a recall election will be expensive.

Community United for Education Justice must first serve Vang with a notice of intention to recall, which is done by issuing a statement with at least 10 signatures. The group would then have to gather at least 4,725 signatures from registered voters in the McLane area, the 20% required for a recall. They would have 120 days to gather the signatures, she said.

A special election would cost $95,000 to $120,000 and would be borne by Fresno Unified, Orth said. The earliest one could be scheduled would be early spring, she said.

Vang said Wednesday in an emailed statement that he has no intention to step down: "I am in full compliance with the requirements for my board position and will not be forced to resign due to an unfounded recall campaign."

His critics include leaders in the Hmong community who attended Wednesday's rally. "We have lost trust (in Vang) and we don't need liars to represent us as our leaders. He needs to step down," said Lue Her, a board member of United Hmong Council.

McLane teacher JoAnne Clark said Vang should step down "while there is an investigation going on."

"If he can say where he puts his head each night, there will be some resolve," Clark said. "I wouldn't be surprised if he does spend a couple of nights at the other homes he rents."

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.

But public records show that between 2007 and 2010, Vang was registered to vote and voted from a house in northeast Fresno at 2103 E. Goshen Ave. within the Clovis Unified School District boundaries. Vang and his wife, Chia Me Vang, own the home, which is listed on mortgage documents as their primary dwelling.

Vang said he takes care of a physically disabled aunt and cousin who live there, and he is renting a house at 3943 E. Fountain Way, inside the McLane High School area he represents.

Clovis Unified school records show that Vang's daughter was enrolled in the 2010-11 school year. Also, the 2011 yearbook from Mountain View Elementary School in the Clovis Unified district shows Vang's daughter was a kindergarten student there.

She subsequently attended St. Anthony's, a private school in Fresno. The school directory listed the Goshen Avenue address and a Clovis-area phone prefix for the family.

Vang also signed his name to a traffic school document with Fresno County courts listing the Goshen address, and neighbors interviewed by The Bee in May said he lived there.

Attempts by trustees Michelle Asadoorian and Larry Moore to discuss the residency questions at the June 6 meeting were silenced by Vang, prompting them to walk out.

Asadoorian and Moore, the FTA, Fresno County Schools Superintendent Larry Powell and The League of Women Voters of Fresno later called for outside agencies to investigate Vang's residency.

In addition, then-FTA President Greg Gadams said in June that his group was prepared to move forward with a recall election, with teachers spending the summer gathering signatures targeting Vang and any trustees who continue supporting him.

Vue said Wednesday afternoon that recall organizers decided to focus their efforts solely on Vang.

Even while maintaining that he is and has always been a resident in the McLane High area, Vang stepped down as Fresno Unified's board president and was replaced by trustee Valerie Davis at the June 20 meeting. He said then he intended to remain in office until his term ends in 2014.

Vang was absent from that meeting so as not to pose a distraction from the board's business, said his Sacramento-based spokesman, William Hodges. He was present at Wednesday's board meeting.

An investigator with the California Secretary of State's Election Fraud Investigation Unit said in June that the unit was evaluating complaints against Vang to determine whether he violated the elections code.

But Shannan Velayas, spokeswoman for the California Secretary of State, said she could not confirm whether any complaints had been submitted or an investigation had begun.

The recall group includes FTA President Eva Ruiz, Javier Guzman of the Diversity Committee of the State First 5 Commission and the district's Graduation Task Force, and members of Community United for Education Justice, United Hmong Council, Reform Fresno Unified, Brown Berets, California Prison Moratorium Project and the United Community Garden Collectives.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6659, eromero@fresnobee.com or @ezraromero on Twitter.

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