CỘNG ÐỒNG VIỆT NAM BẮC CALI KHỞI TỐ SANJOSE CITY. BÀI ÐĂNG TRÊN BÁO HÔM NAY:
Vietnamese-American group sues San Jose over choice of 'Saigon' name
By John Woolfolk
Article Launched: 03/01/2008 01:55:36 AM PST
A local Vietnamese-American group Friday filed a lawsuit accusing the San Jose City Council of repeatedly flouting the state's open-meeting law.
The lawsuit by the non-profit Vietnamese-American Community of Northern California asks a judge to declare that San Jose broke the Brown Act open-meeting law in a Nov. 20 vote that designated a "Saigon Business District" on Story Road.
In addition, the suit alleges that imposing unpopular names on the proposed district violates the free-speech rights of residents who consider them an offensive appeasement of Vietnam's communist government.
The vote ignited a furor in the community, which had pushed heavily for the name "Little Saigon." The council already is scheduled Tuesday to rescind the "Saigon Business District" vote, and Mayor Chuck Reed and Councilwoman Madison Nguyen - who were among the eight-member majority who approved it in November - are calling for a new process to name such districts.
"I think this lawsuit demonstrates why we need to take a time out and try to restore a little perspective on this," Reed said Friday. "Their assertion that the name Saigon Business District seeks compromise with the communist regime of Vietnam is way over the top."
City Attorney Rick Doyle was not available to comment. Lawyers in his office said they had just been served with the lawsuit and have not had time to study the complaint.
But Reed, also a lawyer, called the allegations of Brown Act violations "ridiculous" and the assertion of free-speech violations "a novel interpretation of the First Amendment."
The suit alleges a majority of council members privately agreed on the "Saigon Business District" name before the November vote. That allegation was based in part on a TV interview with Councilman Forrest Williams that suggested he had pledged early on to support Nguyen on the district.
The Brown Act prohibits a majority of council members from privately discussing matters to build consensus before an open vote.
Doyle later said it appeared there was no violation, but he recommended redoing the vote to avoid the appearance of secret dealing.
The suit alleges the council "has a pattern of similar past violations" of the Brown Act that include a 2002 redevelopment vote on the Tropicana Shopping Center, which was rescinded two months later, a September vote to rebuild a fire station in District 2 and discussions on the budget. The suit, which was filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court, asks a judge to prohibit future violations.
Reed, who the suit claims was among the majority involved in private discussions on the fire station, noted that he ended up on the losing end of that vote.