Hmong Elected Official Faced Public Scrutiny
Dr. Christopher T. Vang
In recent days, a few headlines on the Fresno Bee Newspaper featured a Hmong elected official who is serving on the Fresno Unified School District’s Board of Trustees. The nature of these articles uncovered issues and concerns related to the legitimacy of his role as president on the board and his primary legal residence within the district.
Legally, as a school board member, he has to live within the district he is representing on the board. As for this case, the Hmong elected official faced tough questions from the social media about his multiple residences within and outside the district he was elected to represent. Moreover, his registration to vote poses another puzzling question since he used a residence outside the district as his mailing address.
This Hmong educator is the second Hmong elected official in Fresno. He was elected to serve on the board in 2002, reelected for his second term in 2006, and reelected for the third term in 2010. As for Hmong Americans, this individual holds a prestigious position to represent his district and the community, especially to give a voice for the Hmong-American children and families in Fresno.
Currently, this Hmong elected official is the president of the board. The headlines shocked many Hmong Americans who lack the basic understanding of meeting the legal requirements of primary residence. Many feel that he should not be subject to public scrutiny because he is a Hmong American who represents a very unique role on the board. However, according to the laws, his residence came to light because he has multiple residences within and outside the district.
Whether the social media is targeting this Hmong elected official on purpose or not, he could have known all issues at hand better. More importantly, he could have known that election laws require his primary residence to be located within the district he is representing. As Hmong Americans, we should consider our sympathy for him; however, there is so little Hmong Americans can do to help him at this point. The tarnished public image is bigger than the headlines, and the wavering unanswered questions trigger the minds of many Hmong Americans to realize about Hmong leadership in the western politics.
In the thirty-six and a half years, Hmong Americans have come a long way; however, western politics is still relatively new to many because of laws, regulations, policies, and legal requirements. In fact, many do lack proper education on politics. As seen in this case, this kind of public fiasco and debacle could have been avoided if election laws are respected. Nevertheless, intentionally ignoring the basic requirements to hold a public office has somewhat plummeted the Hmong-American political image in the community. Hopefully, it is a lesson learned for some Hmong Americans.
In the Hmong familial politics, written policies, regulations, and bylaws could be disregarded for a variety of reasons to appease the hierarchical system; however, it is a direct violation in the western politics. Even if political corruption is unavoidable, the laws are crafted to prevent it. This tells Hmong Americans to be honestly careful when running for public office; otherwise, having a mentality of Hmong familial politics will not work in the western political arena. The nature of this case involves more than one innocent families and individuals. It is a familial nightmare that these individuals have to undergo when the social media is targeting all parties living at these residences.
It is at great thing that this Hmong elected official has retained a legal counsel to defend him and all the confusions involving his multiple residences. So far, as reported in the social media, his explanations appear to be reasonably sound; however, it is unsure what the political future is going to hold for him when more investigations are conducted by the state and local educational agencies. Perhaps, his legal counsel can foil the probe and curb the social media to help him remain in power indefinitely. Meanwhile, he should be in contact with all constituents in his district.
Hopefully, the media scrutiny will phase out as the whole thing becomes apparent to the community. Let’s help this elected Hmong official be optimistic about the final outcome of this case. In the time of political tribulations, anyone can be targeted for any political reasons. It is obvious that the social medial has singled him out because the community is not satisfied with the status quo and the way the current administration and its policies to provide public education to the diverse student population. However, as Americans, we should not condone any irresponsibility and reckless actions to ignore the laws. We should hold our elected officials, regardless of race, to the same standards under the laws.