Embattled Fresno Unified trustee Tony Vang resigns
By Heather Somerville and John Ellis - The Fresno Bee
Fresno Unified Trustee Tony Vang, who has faced months of public scrutiny over allegations that he has lived outside the school district, announced his resignation from the board Monday.
It should have come sooner, Trustee Michelle Asadoorian said, because Vang has been under fire since late May after revelations that he owns a house, voted and sent his daughter to school in the Clovis Unified School District while sitting on the Fresno Unified board.
"I wish him well; I'm glad he did the right thing," Asadoorian said. "I'm extremely disappointed that we have spent all these months dealing with this controversial issue, which has taken us away from our core issue of educating students in this district."
Community groups including the League of Women Voters called for Vang to step down and for an investigation by authorities. He also was the target of a recall campaign.
Vang -- who was first elected to represent the McLane High School area in 2002 -- didn't address the residency controversy in an email statement on his immediate resignation. Instead, his statement said "growing responsibilities as a faculty member at California State University Fresno and the increasing needs of my family require ever more of my time."
Fresno Unified announced that the school district will fill Vang's seat on the board.
That could have been done in the Nov. 6 election if Vang had resigned soon after his residency issue was raised in late May.
The state education code says that school districts can put a board seat up for election if it's vacated at least 130 days before the next election. In this case, that deadline was June 30.
Instead, the board has 60 days to name a replacement or call for a special election.
By law, the 60-day clock is supposed to start when a resignation letter is received by the county superintendent of schools. But Larry Powell said Monday he hasn't yet received that letter. He did, however, talk with Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson and told him "let's just go ahead and get started with the process."
Said Powell: "I think he's making an honorable decision. I'm glad to see it."
Powell said Vang's decision will "take the attention off of him and put it back where it should be -- on the kids."
In a statement, Fresno Unified said it will move "swiftly and deliberately to fill the open seat in the weeks ahead." There is no indication whether that means naming a replacement or holding a special election.
"We will replace him per the ed code," said Trustee Valerie Davis, who replaced Vang as board president in June. "We have ways that we do things and that's the way we're going to do it."
If the district holds a special election -- which would be next March -- it must shoulder the cost, said Linda Bacon, head legal counsel for the Fresno County Office of Education.
If trustees choose to appoint someone to fill the remaining two-plus years of Vang's term, the district would first advertise for candidates. Applications would then be reviewed by a committee of board members.
Eligible candidates would be interviewed at a public meeting, and the board would choose its appointee.
If the voters in the McLane district weren't happy with the pick, they would have 30 days to circulate a petition that could force a special election -- at the district's expense, Bacon said.
She said she has never seen this happen.
The Fresno Teachers Association -- which has often been at odds with Vang and Hanson over issues facing the district -- is fairly certain trustees will choose to name a replacement for Vang, President Eva Ruiz said.
"We look forward to working with the Board of Trustees to find a suitable replacement for Dr. Vang," she said.
Vang was paid about $1,440 per month -- as well as benefits -- as a trustee. Jamilah Fraser, Fresno Unified's chief information officer, said Vang's benefits will run through Oct. 31. After that, she said, he is eligible to pay for benefits for another 18 months. He does not qualify for retiree health benefits, she said.
Vang's departure comes as unanswered questions remain about his residency.
In June, the Secretary of State's Election Fraud Investigation Unit said it was evaluating complaints against Vang to determine whether he violated the elections code.
It is unclear where that investigation stands. Secretary of State spokeswoman Shannan Velayas said such investigations are confidential. She added that since the office has no prosecutorial authority, any evidence that showed fraud would be turned over to an agency such as the Fresno County District Attorney's Office for a decision on whether to press charges.
Vang has repeatedly denied claims that he lived outside the area he was elected to represent.
------------------------------------------- Text of Tony Vang statement
Here is the full text of the statement released Monday, Sept. 17, by Fresno Unified board Trustee Tony Vang:
Dr. Tony Vang today released the following statement regarding his future with Fresno Unified:
Today, I officially announce my decision to retire as a member of the Fresno Unified School District Board of Education, effective September 17, 2012.
This decision was not an easy one. I have dedicated 10 tireless and productive years in service to our community as a Board member. While there is still a lot of hard work to do, our district has made steady gains each year for the past 10 years as measured by the state Academic Performance Index. I am confident that district staff, our teachers, and our students and their families will continue to meet the challenges ahead.
As for me, my growing responsibilities as a faculty member at California State University Fresno and the increasing needs of my family require ever more of my time. Resigning from my position at this time works best for my family and me and provides the District ample time to fill the vacancy. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with my colleagues on the Board, and serving the parents, students and faculty of Trustee Area 4. There are vast challenges ahead, but I am confident that Fresno Unified and its Board will meet those challenges head-on to ensure that every student has the opportunity to become academically successful and grow to be leaders in their schools and communities.
I am proud of what we have accomplished during my tenure and will cherish all the friendships that have resulted from our hard work together. I look forward to what lies ahead and wish everyone within Fresno Unified the best.