Viet-AID stalls on talks with 'concerned members'

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Sep. 10, 2008

The Vietnamese-American Initiative for Development's board of directors has apparently decided against meeting a group of insurgent community members with a third-party arbitrator, instead telling them they are free to meet with an arbitrator on their own.

"I thought that after Aug. 2, they'd talk to us, but they unfortunately didn't," said Tuan Tran, one of six core members of the Concerned Members Committee (CMC), which formed in late July in response to the firing of Viet-AID's former director Hiep Chu. The six claim to represent the much larger crowd of over 80 who were present at the Aug. 2 meeting to discuss the issue, and indeed that body voted to ask for third party arbitration.

Co-interim directors of Viet-AID Nina Nguyen and Quynh Dang invited the CMC to the end of an Aug. 20 Viet-AID board meeting, but CMC members replied that ground rules were needed and then counter-proposed, again via e-mail, that a meeting be set up on Sept. 28 or a date of the board's choice with a third party arbitrator present to talk about the future of Viet-AID and the reasons Hiep Chu was fired.

Notably, the email also said Chu agreed to sign a waiver of his right to sue for a breach of privacy so that details of his employment could be discussed.

Nam Pham, a Viet-AID board member, responded by email to that proposal on Aug. 29, asking that Viet-AID be given time to "right the Viet-AID ship."

"As to third party involvement," wrote Pham, "you are free to meet with Councilor Sam Yoon, or whoever you see fit. The Board, however, does not see any value or need in arranging such a session."

Pham also implored CMC members to become official dues paying members of Viet-AID, a type of membership that had not been maintained, according to Nguyen and Chu, for several years prior to Chu's termination.

Pham did not return a call for comment. Yoon's office said they have not been involved other than being copied on the email exchange.

"It's extremely negative," said Vuong Nguyen, one of a younger generation of community activists working to repair another local organization, the Vietnamese-American Civic Association, as well as a member of the CMC. "We feel like if we keep doing this it only keeps the wound open so much longer. All it takes is to sit down and talk, I don't see what's so wrong with that."

CMC seems to be acknowledging a stalemate of sorts, and there's talk of a final letter that might express a lack of confidence in the board.