Elk Grove School Trustee Bobbie Singh-Allen is among three local women who allege that they were harassed by associates or supporters of Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly.
Ly, who is serving in his second term as mayor, became the first Hmong mayor in the United States when he was first elected to that position in 2016.
Singh-Allen on July 3 posted a statement on her personal Facebook page, in which she claimed that she was harassed by Ly’s associates after she was appointed to the Elk Grove school board in 2012. She mentioned that she believes that alleged action occurred because she endorsed Ly’s school board opponent, Jake Rambo. Ly defeated the incumbent Rambo in that year’s election.
“Days following the appointment, Steve Ly and his (Hmong) clansmen came after me,” she wrote. “They contacted the district to find out how to contest the appointment and petition to have it overturned.”
Ly went on to serve with Singh-Allen on the Elk Grove school board until he was elected to the Elk Grove City Council in 2014.
Singh-Allen made her allegation against Ly public through her personal Facebook page on July 3, after she read a June 29 op-ed by Linda Vue, Ly’s former, 2016 campaign manager, on the online news site, Elk Grove Tribune.
In that piece, Vue claimed that after she expressed criticism of the mayor through her public Facebook posts, she was harassed by Ly through his associates who are part of the Hmong clan system.
Vue, who is Hmong, noted that a Hmong clan is a family, social structure that is “called upon from time to time to act as a communal court to settle various community and family issues.” There are 18 such family clans in Hmong society.
“It is a failed system that has been heavily criticized for its role in gender-based violence in the Hmong community and Ly used that to his advantage,” she stated.
Vue alleged that her harassment came after she claimed that Ly prematurely implied on his Facebook page that Black Lives Matter protesters set fire to a south Sacramento business that was owned by his friend. It was later revealed that the fire was not associated with the protesters, Vue noted.
Ly deleted his post and later denied allegations through his own op-ed piece that was published in the Tribune on June 30.
After posting Vue’s op-ed, Dr. Jacqueline “Jax” Cheung, owner and editor-in-chief of the Tribune, said that she received telephone threats against her family from strangers.
Cheung said that she has twice been harassed since running Vue’s op-ed in the Tribune. She also told the Citizen that she was threatened during the first call after refusing to remove Vue’s op-ed.
“(The caller said), ‘If you don’t (remove it, expletive) is going to go down with you and your daughter,’” she said. “And I said, ‘Is that a threat?’ He said, ‘It’s a fact.’ And I said, ‘OK, we’re done here. I will be reporting this to the police.’”
Jason Jimenez, public information officer of the Elk Grove Police Department, confirmed that the police report was filed.
Singh-Allen expressed her support for Vue and Cheung on her personal Facebook page on June 30.
“As a woman, a mother and an elected leader, I am disgusted that two women are being subjected to bullying, harassment, and threats of physical harm because one of them spoke out against the mayor of Elk Grove and the other dared to publish the op-ed online,” she wrote.
In the same statement, Singh-Allen referred to the Hmong clan system as a “controlling and intimidating system used to attack and silence these women.”
Singh-Allen told the Citizen that Vue and Cheung’s claims reminded her of being harassed in 2012.
“(Ly) and his people did this to me in the same way they did it to Jax and in the same way they did it to Linda Vue,” she said. “So, this man not only has a problem with women, but using people to come and silence women from speaking up and speaking out.
“I specifically supported everyone who ran against him because I don’t support him. I don’t support who he is.”
Vue, who said that she began being harassed by “online trolls” last month, claimed that Ly does “not need to do much for actions to be taken” against others.
“Steve holds power and privilege in the Hmong community, so he knew that he only needed to express his grievances regarding my post (to) retain a reaction that would benefit (him),” she said.
With the mayoral election only four months away, Vue mentioned that there is no political motive in her comments. Ly is running for his third term as mayor in the November election.
“That’s not the case,” she said. “This whole thing that set off everything in motion came from Steve’s callous, yet ignorant post on his Facebook (page),” she said.
Local elected officials condemn alleged acts
Media coverage of Vue’s allegations against Ly prompted a few local elected officials to publicly speak out.
Elk Grove School Trustee Nancy Chaires Espinoza, who ran against Ly for the Elk Grove City Council’s District 4 seat in 2014, told the Citizen that she believes the allegations against the mayor.
“When I heard the most recent allegations, I immediately believed them, even though I have no connection to the most recent victims,” she said. “The behaviors described are exactly what I’ve experienced with him. The pettiness, the retaliation and the denial of responsibility. I especially recognized that overly-aggressive manner of attack he reserves for the women he perceives as a threat.”
Cosumnes Community Services District (CSD) Director Jaclyn Moreno called upon Ly to “dismantle the patriarchy” in the Hmong clan system. He was one of the earliest elected officials to support her when she ran for the CSD board in 2018.
“Patriarchy isn’t something that’s unique to the clan system,” Moreno said. “We have the patriarchy that exists within our political system, that exists within our workplace, that exists within every facet of society that women are dealing with,” she said.
“As a Hmong elected leader, (Ly) can contribute as an ally to women to help dismantle the patriarchy that exists within the system.”
Former Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis commented on his personal Facebook page that he was “disturbed” about the accusations against Ly.
In that post, he shared what he loves about Elk Grove, but concluded that “we can do better.”
Davis declined to comment for this story.
Mayor responds to allegations
Ly told the Citizen this week that he did not order Hmong clan system members to harass or threaten anyone.
“There is a chair of the clan system in the Sacramento area,” he said. “He wasn’t contacted (or) asked by me or anyone in my campaign to intervene in this.
The mayor added that he cannot control “whether people have an interest to want to go out and defend the person that they support.”
Ly also denied Singh-Allen’s allegation that he attempted to overturn her school board appointment.
“I don’t know what she’s referring to,” he said. “During that time, yes, I was present, because I was already running for school board. The contention during that time was whether the school board should be appointing school board members or it should go to the voters.
“Whoever it was that was competing against her brought that as an issue. So, I think that (Singh-Allen) is making the association that I must be responsible for that, because I was in the audience at the school board meeting.”
Regarding his Facebook post about the south Sacramento fire, Ly stated that it was misunderstood.
“I made no indication of it referring to the peaceful demonstrations of Black Lives Matters,” he said. “In retrospect, it was a bad post and I took it down, and I said, ‘This conversation is going in the wrong direction.’
“When I took it down, Linda Vue took the opportunity to spin the narrative to say that my position was to accuse the protesters of burning this particular business. That now morphed into what we see now.”
Ly told the Citizen that many people are confused about the Hmong clan system, which he referred to as the “equivalent of the Native American peace circle – (the) restorative justice.”
“(Some people) think that this clan system is a part of this mafia that is used to suppress other individuals,” he said. “The Hmong community is really hurt as a result of this.”
The mayor expressed disappointment with Singh-Allen and Moreno’s social media comments on this issue.
“The Elk Grove School District has the highest Hmong student population in the county, and it just shocks me that a school board member would be so callous to label the Hmong familial clan system and refer to them as clansmen,” he said about Singh-Allen.
“In addition to that, I think it’s irresponsible for Jaclyn Moreno to make a statement where she doesn’t understand what the clan system is. It is multiple levels and it is difficult to explain. Jaclyn Moreno has failed in her efforts to understand what the clan system is.
“In her post, she is asking that I denounce the clan system. I’m going to denounce my family? She doesn’t understand that.”
Ly said that the Hmong clan system is not perfect.
“We know that the patriarchy in the clan system is there,” he said. “What we are working on is changing all of that. Right now, we have Hmong women that are doctors and lawyers and politicians. This is a changing clan system.”
Ly noted that he is interested in having this issue resolved.
“What’s important now is to set this aside and resolve it and finding out who’s responsible and getting on with the campaign,” he said. “I understand that this is during the campaign season. That does raise some serious questions for me, as well.
“The most important part of this is I want to get back to doing what’s good for Elk Grove and pay attention to the things that we can do to bring good things to Elk Grove.”