Wong Removed as Mayor

Opponent of Piazza development elected Temple City mayor.

Written by RANDY SHUN / Published November 27, 2009 (ONLINE ONLY)

An unpleasant atmosphere filled the council chambers on Tuesday evening as the city council considered a rare reorganization of the legislative body.

Judy Wong, the first and only Asian mayor of Temple City, was removed from the largely ceremonial position. The vote was 4-1.

Long-time residents, including former councilman Chuck Souder and prominent business owner Jerry Jambazian, spoke before the city council at its meeting on July 21, 2009 to ask councilwoman Wong to step down as mayor.

Before an official vote took place, a teary Wong stated, “I’ve done nothing wrong and I’m fighting these false charges and will be proven innocent.”

“All I can ask is [to] be patient with me,” she continued. “The truth will come out and I will be totally exonerated.”

Wong, along with former mayor Cathé Wilson and former city council and state assembly candidate Scott Carwile, are accused of illegal solicitation and receipt of bribes. On June 10, a 21-count indictment against the three criminal defendants was unsealed.

“There are lots of things that I need to do in order to prove that I am innocent,” said Wong, “and once that is done, all of you who are being mean to me will regret it, what you have done to me.”

“This call for re-organization…is not a determination of guilt or innocence,” said councilman Tom Chavez. Chavez requested the city council consider the issue or reorganization on July 7.

Chavez further stated, “This has nothing to do with one person, but rather, for the best interests of our city.”

Fernando Vizcarra, an ally of councilwoman Wong, agreed with Chavez.

“We all get painted with the same brush, regardless of whether we’ve been involved or not, oh, you [the public] say, they’re politicians, that’s what they do…at some point in time we’ve got to take a stand. We’ve got to do something and I think we’re at that point,” Vizcarra commented.

“This is not the most pleasant session I’ve had so far. I was hoping the issue of council reorganization would resolve itself without coming to a vote tonight,” stated councilman Vincent Yu, the second Asian American elected to the City Council.

Yu continued, “The legal challenges before the city and before Mayor Wong are definitely a distraction from the normal city business functions, for the better good of the city, I would be in support of council reorganization.”

The councilman called Wong his “friend” and reminded the public that “everyone is innocent until proven guilty.”

Newly appointed city councilwoman Cynthia Sternquist, like her council colleagues, praised Wong as “dedicated” to Temple City, but supported council reorganization.

“Unfortunately, the indictment of mayor has given the residents and the public the perception that its city officials are not trustworthy,” she stated.

She further noted, “I believe that we can’t afford the distraction of a long legal battle. We must heal and move forward. And I believe the selection of a new mayor this evening, at this time, will help us do so.”

After all the city councilmembers had spoken, the city clerk called for nominations for a new mayor and mayor pro tempore.

Yu nominated councilman Vizcarra for the position of mayor. Vizcarra was confirmed on a 4-0-1 vote. Councilwoman Wong abstained.

Sternquist then nominated councilman Yu for the position of mayor pro tempore. Yu was confirmed on a 3-0-2 vote, with both Wong and Yu abstaining.

Wong’s position as councilmember remains intact. She will return to trial on August 26.

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