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Home / News / Politics / Orange County Supervisor Do rebuffs ethics allegations

Orange County Supervisor Do rebuffs ethics allegations

by City News Service
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By Paul Anderson

Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do Thursday defended himself against allegations of an ethical lapse related to his daughter’s work for a nonprofit organization that received grants from the county.

The Viet America Society, which does business as Warner Wellness Center, received grants as a subcontractor. Do’s daughter Rhiannon Do volunteered for the Huntington Beach-based nonprofit in July 2021, but was put on the payroll in April 2022, her father said.

The county granted up to $1.2 million — not $2.5 million as reported by another news outlet — for this fiscal year, but halfway into the year the nonprofit has only billed NAMI, the main contractor, for $80,228 in services it has provided such as its “warm line,” a hotline for the depressed or mentally ill to help them, Do said.

Responding to criticism that he should have publicly disclosed that his daughter worked there when the contracts were approved by the county, Do said he was advised by county counsel it was unnecessary.

“If I was told there was some requirement I would have disclosed it,” Do told City News Service.

If his daughter “handled money … then I get it,” Do added.

But he compared it to when Orange County Board Chairman Don Wagner asked county counsel if it was necessary to disclose his relationship with his daughter while voting on a labor contract with the county’s prosecutors because his daughter is a deputy district attorney.

“How is it different than say, Wagner’s daughter, a deputy DA?” Do said.

Wagner agreed.

“My question (to county counsel) was she’s an adult, she doesn’t live in the house, she doesn’t get anything else any other DDA gets can I still vote on the contract,” Wagner said. “And the answer was yes.”

Wagner added that in Do’s case, “It’s even a little clearer to me. She’s an adult daughter, doesn’t live at the house, doesn’t get anything special as a result of this contract and we didn’t even vote on the contract. It’s a subcontract. It’s even one step removed.”

Wagner said he asked the question during a closed session meeting in which all of the other supervisors were present, including Do.

Wagner was not bothered by the reports.

“I do not believe there was any ethical violation by Andrew,” Wagner said. “Had I been in the same situation — and I was in a similar one with my own daughter — I would have made the same decision he did.”

And even had Do piped up about his daughter’s connect, “It would have changed nothing,” Wagner said. “Andrew is not benefiting. The daughter is not receiving any special benefit. All of us at the time would have looked at this and said there is no concern here.”

Do pointed out that Wagner has not had to disclose his daughter’s job while voting on the contracts.

She is not dependent on the job because she is a UC Irvine law school student on scholarship who has a major national law firm waiting for her in five months before she graduates in a year, Andrew Do said.

“When she steps away it will be a big loss for my community and for VAS,” Do said.

The proud father remarked his daughter was also a star basketball player in high school and took enough pre-college courses that she was able to get her undergraduate degree in 2 1/2 years. She had an internship with the Steinberg Institute and testified twice for the organization before the Legislature, Do said.

Do also disputed reports that the nonprofit was not legally registered with the state. Do pointed to records showing it was registered with state in June 2020 and received federal tax-free status in May 2021.

The first contract from the county was in December 2020, Do said. Do also showed a Stanton business license for the nonprofit from July 2020, and it received an identification number from the IRS in June 2020.

The reports that it was not incorporated as a nonprofit at the time it received grants are “patently false,” Do said.

There was a bookkeeping error from a previous employee during the pandemic that triggered a letter from the Attorney General’s Office, but that mistake had already been caught by a new bookkeeper and was corrected in time and the nonprofit was never suspended, Do said. The taxes had already been paid, but the report showing that had not been submitted, Do added.

Do said he was eager to help the nonprofit with its mission to serve the community with services such as food and clothes and mental health counseling during the pandemic. He pointed out that throughout his term on the board he has worked to seed more nonprofits, especially in the field of mental health services.

Do was a driving force in the county’s efforts to combat homelessness when the county was sued in federal court. Do saw an opportunity in the lawsuit to settle the issue with a plan to create more transitional housing and services to help the homeless get into shelter and back on their feet.

During that litigation U.S. District Judge David O. Carter criticized the county and its insurance agency for the needy, CalOptima, for sitting on large amounts of funding and not spending it. That prompted Do to push the CalOptima board when he was a representative on it to spend that money.

A major issue in the debate was whether CalOptima should be working to reach out to the community and offer services or just wait for its clients to file claims.

Do said there are many obstacles for the needy to apply for government help, and that surveys have shown language barriers and an ignorance of the benefits are some of the biggest hurdles, so the nonprofits can help reach those in need.

“I am all about capacity building,” Do said.

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