Membership seeks answers after Viet-AID fires executive director

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Jul. 30, 2008

A group of businesspeople, seniors and other Vietnamese community members are demanding an explanation from Viet-AID's board of directors for dismissing executive director Hiep Chu. The group called a meeting for this coming Saturday to confront the board, ask questions, and "voice the member's level of confidence with the current Viet-AID's board of directors."

Chu was terminated July 18 for what co-interim director Nina Nguyen cryptically called a difference in vision that had flashpoints around recent development projects, including the ultimately unsuccessful Viet-AID proposal for the former St. William's Church. The other co-interim director Quynh Dang said Tuesday that to say more would require Chu waiving his rights as an employee.

"We're proud that we have built a better place to live in Dorchester, and we just don't want anything that could cause a stumble," said Tuan Tran, owner of Tran Insurance Co. and one of six that signed the meeting call. "That is my message to the board of Viet-AID. I'd like to find out from them why they terminated Hiep Chu. It's not a question to save Hiep Chu's job, it's a question of what does Viet-AID plan for the Vietnamese community?"

But so far it isn't clear whether the Viet-AID board will show up.

"It wasn't addressed to the board or to me and Quynh [Dang], just to the members of the Vietnamese community," said Nguyen. "I'm not authorized to talk about this because the board is still trying to decide how to address this matter."

Another question outstanding is 'Who is the membership of Viet-AID?' The people, in other words, who might have the right the question the board according to the organization's bylaws.

All CDCs are membership organizations, meaning the board is elected by members who usually pay dues, but neither Chu or Nguyen, who was formerly co-chair of the board, agree on who is responsible for maintaining an active membership list. According to Chu, it's been years since one was maintained. According to Nguyen, it was Chu's responsibility and she can't recall any active list.

The organization's annual meetings have been highly informal, including a barbeque, an annual report presentation, and vote from those present on reinstating the board of members. This year, she said, the meeting simply reinstated the longstanding board with no changes.

The letter calling the meeting explains thus: "Since Viet-AID has not kept an active membership data base for many years, we consider all Vietnamese who are 18 years of age or older who have an interest in Viet-AID's well-being to be the members of Viet-AID."

The meeting is scheduled for this Saturday, Aug. 2, at 1 p.m. in the Vietnamese American Community Center at 42 Charles St.

Hiep Chu himself met with state Reps. Marty Walsh and Marie St. Fleur on Tuesday, telling them the issue is not his getting his job back, but holding the board accountable. Walsh did not immediately return a call for comment.