The Character Assassination of Vesna Nuon

UPDATE 1/23/12: Gerry Nutter has an update on his story which would seem to refute my devil’s advocate arguments on why Nuon may have so many unitemized reciepts.  I said I would welcome any corrections and I stand by that.  So it seems the imaginary hypothetical scenario  I proposed was not possible.

I believe in public service, and those who have seen my posts in the past know that I am a proud supporter of the public employees of the City of Lowell, and have stood up for them when people call their unions greedy.  I have a special respect for the Lowell Police Department and the hard work they do to keep our city safe.  I cannot imagine a more stressful occupation.

I also have tremendous respect for any person who puts themselves out there for serving in elected office.  From the day the campaign starts, they go under a microscope. And suddenly people who don’t even know them are out there attacking their character as if they do.  Some special brand of know-it-alls take it to another level and start making wild accusations and then begin to engage in what can only be considered character assassination.

I don’t have any inside knowledge on what happened the night Vesna Nuon was arrested for disorderly conduct in 2008 (and even if I did, I wouldn’t share it on this forum because of my self-imposed “rules”).  All I can go on is the information that was published in news sources and in the court documents that are also public information.  From that limited information, I really can’t blame either Mr. Nuon for suing for a violation of his constitutional rights or if a member of the LPD has no use for Mr. Nuon, giving his apparent disrespect of the officer who was on duty that night.  I wouldnt blame any police officer or person related to a police officer who didn’t vote for him, as it is their right, and from a completely uninformed perspective it certainly looks like he acted inappropriately.  But I also don’t blame Mr. Nuon for seeking legal remedies.  As a public figure, even back then in the community, your reputation is essential, and clearing your name is inevitably a priority.  In terms of the actual incident, I side with the Constitution.  As the old saying goes “I don’t agree with what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it.”  Being disrespectful is not a crime in the United States and I would hate to see it become that way. In any event, the judge made a summary judgement in favor of Mr. Nuon based solely on the events as described by the officer in question, so I guess I am not alone.

But rather than rehash the events of a story that I admit I don’t know all the details of, I’d rather focus on whats happened recently.  There’s been a lot of bad press about Mr. Nuon lately, but nothing quite reaching the character assassination undertaken by Gerry Nutter on his blog yesterday (plenty more on that later).  It’s funny that in this day and age, I actually expect better out of bloggers than the Lowell Sun, whose editorial biases are well known.  I also noticed that Mr. Nuon campaigned as not a fervent supporter of the city manager, Bernard Lynch, who the Lowell Sun has bashed lately.  When Mr. Nuon decided to back the more pro-Lynch of the two mayoral candidates, the negative stories started coming out.  Correlation does not equal causation.  So I’m not saying, but I’m just saying.

But of course, I am leaving out the $50K.  That was the one news item that seemed to create some controversy.  Many observers put on their holier-than-thou caps and said they wouldnt accept the money (to which I say B.S.).  Others expressed doubt to Mr. Nuon’s claim that most of the money went to lawyers.  I mean, again, I don’t have insider knowledge but I think 3 1/2 years of legal fees can add up pretty quickly and most lawyers don’t work for free.  But in the end, at least according to the law, there was a lot of talk that was quite literally blaming the victim.

Eyebrows were also raised when Mr. Nuon was named the chair of the subcommittee on Public Safety.  I can understand why people would be upset because of the disrespectful way he acted that night.  I don’t think people should blame him for asserting his legal rights.

But then we get into Mr. Nutter’s latest obsession.  Remember he’s had a few, Rodney Elliot most famously, earlier there were other repeated posts about Kevin Murphy in the past and others.  But now it’s definitely Mr. Vesna Nuon’s turn, and it’s arguably more ugly than ever.

http://gerrynutterslowell.com/2012/01/20/public-safety-sub-committee-chair-doesnt-follow-finance-reporting-laws/

The funny thing is, I didn’t think much of his original post.  Turns out there’s about $200 in Mr. Nuon’s account that State Office of Political and Campaign Finance is interested in finding out more about.  There’s also some money that hasn’t been itemized and the State OCPF has NOT questioned Mr. Nuon, at least as of now.  Gerry conflated the two items and then tried to tie some minor issues Mr. Nuon had with following bureaucratic procedure as somehow evidence that he wasn’t fit to chair the subcommittee on Public Safety.  He furthermore cited the example of former city councilor Rithy Uong as a warning sign to Mr. Nuon.  Except he called the former councilor Rithy “Oung,” a misspelling he has made in the past quite a few times.  Trying to do the guy a solid, I corrected his spelling, but also told him I thought the comparison to Uong was bogus and felt forced (although nowhere near as forced as comparing OCPF reporting to public safety.)  Here’s some facts for the two cases:

1. Nuon has some paperwork missing on his campaign related reports.  Uong took a promotion in a public sector job in the community he was also an elected official in.
2. Nuon’s “violation” was campaign-related. Uong’s “violation” was public office-related
3. Nuon’s issue was with the OCPF.  Uong’s issue with the State Ethics Commission.
4. Nuon is Cambodian-American.  Uong is Cambodian-American.

1 out of 4 ain’t bad? Actually it is.

While Gerry thought he was clever comparing the two guys, I thought he was lazy.  I didn’t say he was racist.  I just thought it’s going to get awfully old quick if  at every turn Nuon and Uong will be compared to one another.  Mr. Nutter wasn’t the first person I accused of making this lazy comparison.  Not even by 2 months: http://sunthecolumn.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/school-committee-election-shock-waves/#comments

So after correcting the spelling of Mr. Uong’s name and making a slight objection to his choice of comparisons, especially since Mr. Uong’s issue is old news and there are plenty of other officials with problems closer to Mr. Nuon’s and more recently.  Such as the big news out of the very same office that the issue is with, the case of State Rep. Paul Adams, who, despite having over $39,000 in disputed funds (more than double the entire amount raised by Mr. Nuon, almost 200 X the amount questioned by the OCPF), was hit with, drum roll please….$1000 fine.  So while Mr. Uong had to give up his job because of the State Ethics Commission ruling (and subsequently chose to resign from the council), Adams had to pay a fine and say he was sorry.  Actually he didn’t even apologize.  So there you have it.  I also pointed out the problems faced by Mr. Kazanjian of being a much more recent example of a Lowell City Councilor having ethics issues.  I thought the Nuon-Uong comparison was forced.  So sue me.  But then don’t accept the money because ummm…yeah they never get that far I guess.

From there, Mr. Nutter, upset because of unmade accusations of racism, told me if I don’t agree with him, I shouldn’t read his blog.  Which is interesting.  I guess his word is final and he can spread whatever lies about any person he wants because if you don’t agree with him, you’re not invited to share your counter argument. 

From his overly hostile response, I offered the final observation that while he thought it was clever that he can conflate Mr. Nuon’s “breaking the law” of campaign finance reporting as being somehow unsuitable for someone to chair “Public Safety,” I noted that was also a case of apples and oranges.  When Mr. Nuon was campaigning in the Acre and the Lower Highlands, I don’t think the public safety issues that were brought up were disclosure of all campaign contributions.

Then came this final response to me:

gerrynutt

January 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm

It’s not that i didn’t want you to comment it is just I RESENT LIKE HELL any implication that my motives might be because of his Nationality.

That was in your first post and its an outright wrong.

Secondly who are you to tell me or anyone who I should use to make comparrisons?

Lastly I am quickly becoming frustrated with people who don’t have the testosterone or courage of their convictions to use there real name and email but have no issue bitching and complaining about those of us who do and what we say.

I’d take people seriously if they had the backone to admit who they are instead of being cowards and hiding because they are scared they will piss someone off.

Although I must admit I think all internet tough guy activities are pretty humorous, its very funny when someone calls you a coward, and then doesn’t allow you to respond.  I’ve tried two separate comments in return to Mr. Nutter’s last response to me.  Neither were approved.  Neither were using the same high school tough guy trash talk he used.  Actually I complimented him on his blog and what an excellent resource it was during the campaign.  I apologized if he felt my objection of his Nuon-Uong comparison was somehow an indictment of racism (which it never was).  But I didn’t back down from my arguments.  I don’t know what reason he chose to shut me out, but thats what he did, and I am really bummed because he then made even more wilder accusations later!

He SUES the police for doing their job, after mouthing off, allegedly saying he was going to call the Police Supt. and The City Manager because the officer dared to ask him for an ID , trades a vote for the Chairman of the Public Safty Sub-Committee so he can rub their face in at and can’t report where he got $15,000 from and that’s okay? Not with me it isn’t.

Suddenly the character assassination spread from just Mr. Nuon to Mr. Murphy as well.  Gerry Nutter accused the Mayor of the City of Lowell of trading a vote for Mayor in exchange for a chairmanship of Public Safety so he “can rub their face in it.”  To which I say, if that was really all it took, wouldn’t have Rodney Elliot done the same thing!?  But seriously, this is a wild accusation with nothing to back it up.  It’s actually multiple accusations.

1.) There was a quid-pro-quo for Nuon’s support of Murphy
2.) That quid-pro-quo was Murphy promised Nuon the subcommittee chairmanship
3.) Nuon wanted the chairmanship so he could “rub their faces in it”
4?) And Murphy was ok with this?

Gerry also has issues with Mr. Nuon’s financial statements but he overstates what the OCPF has issues with.  If Mr. Nutter wants to file legislation to change OCPF reporting regulations, he can do so.  What he can’t is insitute his own policy unilaterally from his computer.  There are some issues with Mr. Nuon’s returns but they are for small amounts of money.  Mr. Nutter wants to pour through Mr. Nuon’s contributors as many political junkies do, but the problem is a lot is unitemized.  But you don’t have to itemize certain things.  Namely cash and small donations.  Mr. Nutter has absolutely no proof that Mr. Nuon is hiding information from his reports, but is just assuming so.  There are 106,000 people in Lowell, and conservative estimates put the SE Asian population at 20,000+  If Mr. Nuon averaged a 75 cent contribution from each member of that community he’d get to $15,000.  I know thats not how it went down, but its certainly possible that the vast majority of his $15,000 does not need to be reported and there is nothing illegal about not reporting it. 

So to recap:
Arresting people without probable cause: No Big Deal.
Legally following OCPF requests, but not enough to Gerry’s liking: Call in the Major Crimes Unit

This came after the original comment at the end of his initial post:
IF it gets to the point that the state begins to fine him for not filling out his required forms will the Mayor keep him as chair of public safety?

Why is he chair now?

While Gerry and many others pretend that Nuon’s first and only interaction with public safety was his incident from 2008 and the ensuing legal cases. He willfully ignores Nuon’s 20 years on the Sex Offender Registry Board or his past work with the Middlesex County Sherriff’s office.  He ignores Nuon’s work as a liaison with one of the largest minority groups in the city that has been disproportionately affected by public safety issues in recent years.  He ignores Mr. Nuon’s campaign where he repeatedly stated public safety was his number one issue.   He ignores/rejects Mayor Murphy’s stated reasons when questioned in Lowell Sun.  And instead it can only be because Vesna Nuon wants to rub  it in the faces of the Lowell Police Department.

Luckily, most of us outgrew high school. 

I don’t know Vesna Nuon personally.  I don’t know if he habors hostility towards cops.  I don’t know his motivations.  But I know an unfair character assassination when I see one. I choose to stick to the facts.

I welcome your comments and feedback.  This was fun.

8 Responses to The Character Assassination of Vesna Nuon

  1. Remember in November says:

    High school? You give too much credit to the maturity level of the writing.

    Though let me say this. It is only natural to tie Nuon’s name to Rithy, much as the next African American President or candidate will be forever tied to Barack Obama, or much as every Civil Rights activist since MLK is tied to and compared to his legacy. Is it lazy? Probably, but if so, our entire media and nation is guilty of it. Gerry at least deserves some slack there.

    I’m with you on Nuon. I don’t know what to think of that night with the police. Would it be the first time settlement money was paid simply to end a case, even if the eventual outcome might fall in the police or government’s favor? I doubt it.

    However, what I care more about is what he does from here on out as a Councilor. If he develops and adversarial relationship with the police, he’s not going to be around long. If he works with them in the best interest of the entire city’s public safety, including the Asian community, whatever happened that night becomes a distant memory and a future political star in Lowell is born, one who won’t be confined to Tuesday night’s in the chambers.

    • Thank you for the comment. I should clarify. There absolutely will be times when comparisons between Nuon and Uong will not only be inevitable but entirely just. They are the two first Asian American city councilors in Lowell, which is a city with a very sizeable Asian population. The fact that they are 2 of the first 3 Cambodian American city councilors in the entire United States in a city with the second largest Cambodian American population is absolutely relevant…except when its not.

      To be honest, I took a lot more issue with the comment made in the Lowell Sun Column Blog in November:
      “Nuon has potential to do great things on the City Council. He must be careful, however, to avoid the fatal mistakes made by Rithy Uong, the first Cambodian elected to the City Council in 1999.”

      Those are the comparisons I really take offense to. Rithy’s problems were because he was a public employee not because he was of Cambodian descent. There was very little reason to believe that Vesna Nuon would have the same problems. I remember objecting to that comparison and then when there’s a problem arisen with Nuon, he’s compared to Rithy, I reacted. To be fair, Gerry never mentioned their shared demographic traits so I never thought it was like that. My objection was not in a “You’re a racist” type way. But in a “Lets let the men stand for themselves, except when it is an issue especially related to their status as minority councilors, etc.” I don’t think Gerry conciously decided to compare them, its just that its the easy way out.

      As for the rest of your comment, I agree. What happens from here on out is what will ultimately matter and what will determine how this plays out. Aside from the strictly legal aspects, I try not to take sides. I like Nuon and I like the Lowell PD. I understand if there are hard feelings and hopefully this is Nuon’s way to smooth over the hard feelings, if it isn’t, then I think you’re right. When he’s standing on his friend’s porch as a private citizen, he doesn’t have to respect the police. When he’s the chair of public safety subcommittee, its kind of part of the job description. We’ll see how it plays out.

  2. Mr. Lynne says:

    Excellent inaugural (non-introductory) post. I don’t actually know much about his lawsuit but I definitely walk away from your post with more information than I had before.

    • Thanks for the comment! I can’t say I am an expert on the lawsuit either, I only became aware of it recently and I just go by what I read. I also chose not to even include the name of the officer because I honestly I don’t blame him. My reading of the events in hindsight make it seem like a bad idea to arrest Mr. Nuon, but I’ve never been in his shoes and I really am not even comfortable talking about it. I don’t know the officer in question, others do and have vouched for him and I’m sure they’re right and I wouldn’t want one incident to define a person. (More reasons for me to stay anonymous online I might add). I could be totally wrong too, so don’t take me as an expert.

      I based most of my observations on this court document available online as well as sources from the Lowell Sun and the <a href="http://articles.boston.com/2011-03-30/news/29362526_1_disorderly-conduct-pittsburgh-police-officer-false-arrest&quot; title”Boston Globe” I tried to be fair in my assement because I really can see an argument made on both sides. It’s the more recent attacks on Mr. Nuon that are troubling me.

  3. Lynne says:

    Great first substantive post (if one doesn’t count one’s Hello World). Nice job. (Also, welcome, again!)

  4. Joe Smith says:

    We should carefully consider Councilor Nuon’s approach to public safety – avoidance of crime. Too often we get wrapped up in the enforcement and subsequent judicial action (or lack thereof). He may bring a fresh persective to the game.

  5. Joe Smith says:

    Sorry, the first failure to adhere to one of the goals – “perspective”

  6. Prince Charming says:

    Luckily, for most of us, being an asshole is not an arrestable offense.

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