A proposal by the Westminster School Board of Trustees to send a request to the Orange County district attorney to investigate one of its members failed when the member herself voted against the motion.
The board held a special meeting on Sept. 18 to discuss allegations against its own president, Frances Nguyen, who has been accused of violating residency requirements when running for a seat in the upcoming election.
The proposal failed to proceed on a 2–2 vote, with Nguyen getting the chance to vote no herself.
Board trustee Jamison Power voted in favor of sending the letter to the DA, and said he believes that Nguyen did in fact commit the alleged infraction.
“The residents and voters of Westminster School District have a right to be represented by someone who actually lives here and is vested in the community,” Power told The Epoch Times via email.
“Public voter registration documents show that Ms. Nguyen re-registered to vote at multiple different addresses within the span of a few days leading up to the candidate filing deadline.
“The owner of one of these houses is quoted … saying that, despite the fact that she registered to vote at his address, she never lived there. … This is extremely troubling conduct that I believe needs to be investigated.”
Nguyen did not respond to a request for comment from The Epoch Times by press time.
When the Westminster School District changed its electoral process from at-large to by-precinct elections in 2018, Nguyen’s physical address was originally in the district’s Area 1, making it the seat Nguyen would qualify for in the election.
Yet Nguyen changed her address twice after the city’s recreation commissioner, David Johnson, decided to run in Area 1, and Power, the current Area 4 trustee, opted not to apply for reelection.
Nguyen changed her address on June 26 to a location just outside the limits of Area 4. She changed it again on Aug. 4 to a location inside Area 4. The second change was made three days before the filing deadline.
The accusations against Nguyen allege that the trustee decided to change her address to Area 4 after she developed an opponent in her Area 1 election, and lied about her real address to be able to run in Area 4 where she would be uncontested.
Power, the current Area 4 trustee, claimed that because Nguyen first moved outside the limits of the Westminster School District and then later into Area 4 in order to qualify to run in the election, she thereby vacated her Area 1 seat and should have to step down.
The Westminster School District Board Bylaws state that a vacancy can occur when a board member ceases to be “an inhabitant of the state or resident of the district.” The regulations follow California state codes.
The Sept. 18 vote negated a proposal to send a letter to the DA that would formally request the agency to look into the claims that Nguyen potentially violated the law and vacated her current seat on the board when she filed new addresses.
The issue with Nguyen’s residential status comes only a month after another Westminster School Board trustee resigned when faced with similar charges.
Xavier Nguyen, who represented the district’s Area 2, resigned on Aug. 13 after being charged with perjury and filing fraudulent nomination papers in 2018. The charges were also related to using a false address.
“It is not normal to have residency questions raised about multiple board members in such a short time span, and we—as a board—have an obligation to act,” Power said.
“I was disappointed that Ms. Nguyen has refused to speak publicly on this matter except through her lawyer, and then blocked any effort to get to the bottom of the allegations.
“In just the last eight years, three members of the Westminster School Board have been accused of residency fraud. Two of those trustees resigned and one was charged with felony residency/voter fraud. I do think this is an issue that must be addressed, as it is clear there is a pattern and a problem.”
Board trustee Jeremy Khalaf also voted in favor of sending a letter to the DA regarding the matter, but declined to discuss the investigation, the details of the vote, or other ongoing issues in Westminster when asked for comment.
Trustee Khahn Nguyen joined Nguyen in voting against the proposal, which needed majority approval to proceed.
UPDATE: After publication, Frances Nguyen contacted The Epoch Times via email. In her response, she said she was “disappointed” by Power’s comments and allegations, adding that her attorney, Mark Rosen, had written a letter to each board member in which he had “clarified the situation thoroughly.”
“My job right now as a president of Westminster School Board is to protect our teachers, staff and students, while preparing for the opening of the schools. We are going through the pandemic; therefore, we need to focus on their health and safety,” Nguyen said.
“We need to focus our resources on the students, not wasting tax payers’ money on these allegations.”