Ly press conference

Cua Lo-Ly speaks at the event while her husband, former Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly, stands by her side.

Former Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly on Nov. 9 criticized Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen and several other local elected officials for allegedly taking actions that target local Hmong people and fuel Asian hate. A small crowd gathered behind him when he held a press conference outside Elk Grove City Hall.

“This past year, local politicians under the guise of politics, have subjected Asian Americans to unfair treatment and bias stereotypes that have harmed Asian Americans in Elk Grove,” he said.

The event was presented by his civil rights organization, Asian American Civil Liberties & Anti-Defamation (AACLAD), and also included speeches by several others, including Ly’s wife, Cua Lo-Ly.

Ly, who became America’s first Hmong mayor when he was elected as Elk Grove’s mayor in 2016, currently serves as president and CEO of AACLAD.

This week’s press conference came after many months of dissension, which began during the 2020 mayoral election in which Singh-Allen defeated the incumbent Ly.

In that year, several local women, including then-Elk Grove School Board Trustee Singh-Allen and Community Services District Director Jaclyn Moreno alleged they had been harassed by Ly’s associates or supporters.

In response to these harassment allegations, Singh-Allen, in June 2020, used her personal Facebook page to refer to the Hmong familial clan system as a “controlling and intimidating system used to attack and silence these women.”

As for Moreno, she alleged that Ly “failed to act” regarding her harassment allegation, and instead sided with her “abuser.”

Moreno also called upon Ly to “dismantle the patriarchy” in the Hmong familial clan system.

Prior to making her allegations, Moreno joined Ly and campaigned with him on the Team Elk Grove coalition of candidates in local races in 2018.

During the same press conference, Ly denied allegations that he had anyone harass people.

“I repeat, I have never sent any individual or group, directly or indirectly, to harass or threaten anyone,” he said. “None of these claims are based on any evidence at all.”

After reviewing the harassment allegations against the mayor, the City Council, on Aug. 12, 2020, voted to request a Sacramento County Grand Jury investigation regarding those allegations. All four council members later endorsed Singh-Allen for mayor.

Several protests against Singh-Allen have since been held by the activist group, Elk Grove Hmong Americans.

The group, which claims they are not associated with Ly, also led an unsuccessful recall petition against Singh-Allen, and earlier this month filed complaints with the California Fair Political Practices Commission and the Sacramento County Grand Jury, claiming that she and the Elk Grove City Council violated multiple aspects of the Political Reform Act.

It is alleged in the group’s Grand Jury complaint that the “sole intention” of the council’s vote to have the Grand Jury investigate Ly was to assist Singh-Allen’s mayoral campaign against him.

At the Nov. 9 press conference, Ly referred to the council’s Grand Jury referral as “frivolous,” and added that it resulted “in nothing.”

“Never mind the fact that detective George Benitez of the Elk Grove Police Department had already investigated the case and also the police chief reporting at (a) City Council meeting that nothing has been found and that the case is closed,” Ly added.

Ly followed that statement by sharing his post-2020 mayoral election reflections.

“It took time for me (to) pause and reflect, but essentially, it is clear now that riding on the coattails of Asian hate served them well,” he said. “And for the record, just because you are Asian, it doesn’t mean you can’t be able to spill hatred towards other Asians. We saw it here, in Elk Grove.”

Singh-Allen, who declined to comment for this story, told the Citizen last month that she has been subjected to “manufactured false claims of racism.”

“Weaponizing racism is dangerous when we need everyone working together to combat hate,” she said last month. “As an Asian American immigrant, I will continue to work hard and build bridges with all communities as I have for decades as a school board trustee, community leader, and now mayor.”

Lo-Ly, during her speech at the event, defended her husband. She said that Singh-Allen and Moreno “disparaged the Hmong community for political gain.”

“Clearly with no knowledge of the complexities and nuances of the Hmong and culture, instead of apologizing for their harmful words, Singh-Allen and Moreno continued to gaslight the Hmong community by using my husband, Steve Ly, as their scapegoat,” she said.

Lo-Ly also alleged that Singh-Allen, Moreno and their “accomplices” brought a “new low to political campaigning in Elk Grove” and “made Elk Grove a ‘Place for Hate.’”

While Ly was serving as the city’s vice mayor in 2016, the City Council proclaimed Elk Grove as a “No Place for Hate” city.

That proclamation, which was signed by the entire council, notes: “The City Council rejects, discourages and disapproves of any hate-based activity or conduct directed to harm a person due to a person’s immutable characteristics.”

Lo-Ly further criticized the current mayor.

“Singh-Allen’s continual dismissal of anyone that speaks against her as a Steve Ly associate and vilification of the Hmong community is appalling,” she said. “Singh-Allen’s harmful and offensive words are hate speech.”

Lo-Ly also referred to Moreno as a “liar.”

“She is dishonest and unfaithful,” she said. “Instead of disparaging the Hmong, Moreno should have stood in solidarity with them and spoken out against the misinformation being used to attack the Hmong community.

“She benefited, along with then Team Elk Grove, (from) the kindness and support our familial kinship system provided by preparing and delivering 10,000 bags with her campaign literature.”

Moreno did not respond to the Citizen’s request for comment on allegations made against her at the press conference, as of press time.

After naming Elk Grove Vice Mayor Stephanie Nguyen, Council Members Pat Hume and Darren Suen, and former Council Member Steve Detrick, Lo-Ly exclaimed, “Shame on You!”

“The trauma and hurt these elected (officials) have put us and our families through, with their false narratives and rhetoric, will have lasting negative affect on us, the Hmong community and anyone that looks like us,” she said.

Dr. May Ying Ly, assistant professor of social work at California State University (CSU), Stanislaus and no relation to the former mayor, was among the speakers at the press conference.

This educator said that after speaking in opposition of accusations against Steve Ly, letters and email messages discrediting her life’s work to empower Hmong women were sent to CSU Stanislaus. She added that she was also “attacked” through social media.

“What was really upsetting to me was not only did they attempt to slander Steve Ly with mistruths and misinformation, but by perpetrating these mistruths and misinformation about the functions of traditional leaders, they have directly contributed to the negative stereotypes of the Hmong community, and further marginalized a community that has already been marginalized,” she said.

Following the event, Ly told the Citizen that his civil rights organization plans to continue its dedication to both educating people and addressing those who are “filled with hate.”

He added that AACLAD is also currently reviewing complaints that this nonprofit received from Asian Americans who claimed that their First Amendment rights were suppressed at local government meetings.

“Maybe (there is a) First Amendment issue in Elk Grove, and so that then will prompt us to tap into the funds to find the attorney that would be able to take that on,” Ly said.