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Orange County politician is in the hot seat

Some voters are calling for Westminster Councilman Andy Quach to resign after an arrest on suspicion of drunk driving; others call it a personal matter. At this week's Council meeting, he apologized.

August 14, 2009|My-Thuan Tran

Westminster City Councilman Andy Quach and Assemblyman Van Tran (R-Garden Grove) are two of Orange County's most prominent Vietnamese American elected officials.

Quach found himself on the defensive this week regarding his recent arrest on suspicion of drunk driving, and Tran deflected criticism of his involvement during the police investigation.

Some have called for Quach to step down.

Others have rallied around him and said the incident should not tarnish his record.

On Wednesday night, Quach publicly apologized at the City Council meeting. Quach, 37, was arrested Aug. 1 after his Mercedes-Benz S550 collided with another car, struck a concrete wall and severed a power pole, knocking out electricity to more than 300 homes. A blood test revealed that he had a blood-alcohol level of more than 0.26%.

"I fully recognize and appreciate that the years of service I have put into this city were damaged by my recent mistakes, although I hope the damage is not irreparable," said Quach, who was elected in 2002 to the council in this suburb where nearly a third of the residents are Vietnamese American.

Quach said he did not believe the incident should be treated as a political issue. "On the contrary," he said, "I believe that this is an issue of personal responsibility."

Westminster resident Ngoc Tran, 60, agreed. "He is at fault, but this does not affect his work as a City Council member," said Tran, who voted for Quach.

But others disagreed. Tuan Nguyen, 54, another Westminster resident, said at Wednesday's council meeting that Quach should either step down or be recalled.

"He is not going to be a role model for other Vietnamese to look at," Nguyen said.

"He destroyed the good-citizen image that a Vietnamese politician should have to represent the community, and that is why we look for his resignation."

Nguyen also questioned the involvement of Van Tran during the police investigation of Quach's accident.

Shortly after the incident occurred, Quach called Tran, said Westminster Police Sgt. Dan Schoonmaker. Tran arrived at the scene and identified himself as Quach's lawyer, Schoonmaker said.

Tran had to be warned twice by officers to step back, he said. At one point, an officer warned him that he would be arrested if he continued to interfere, and Tran relented, Schoonmaker said.

Although Tran was disruptive at the scene, he did not interfere with the investigation, Schoonmaker said.

"If it would have gotten to a point where he was truly causing our officers to be unable to continue the field sobriety test," he said, "we would have taken different action."

Tran said in a statement Thursday that Quach called him for help and that when he arrived on the scene, "tensions were high, with exposed power lines and the car on fire."

"In attempting to get more information," Tran added, "the on-duty officer asked me to step back. I did."

Meanwhile, Quach said he would not make any "hasty political decisions."

He said that because of physical injuries he suffered in the accident, he had not planned to attend Wednesday's council meeting, but he went because he wanted to address his constituents.

"I plan to concentrate my attention toward rebuilding the trust I know I have damaged," he said at the meeting, "and that starts with me coming here tonight."

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my-thuan.tran@latimes.com

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