San Gabriel City Hall
One seat remained conspicuously empty in an unusually packed San Gabriel City Council chambers Tuesday evening. Mayor Albert Huang — following a dispute with a lady friend that started at a dumpling house and landed him charges of robbery, assault and battery — had resigned that morning.
The decision was so new that the agenda listed him in attendance. Meanwhile hundreds of residents, protesters, news reporters and city officials filled the chambers to capacity. The meeting was an informational session for the California High-Speed Rail to explain plans for proposed track in the area, a prospect that concerns many local residents who fear they will be displaced. But the recent events created a different focus.
In front of the Chamber, six Chinese-speaking residents of San Gabriel hoisted signs that claimed the 35-year-old Huang is a “crook” who stole their money when they invested in San Gabriel real estate and demanding to see his bank statements. (Their problems with the former mayor had nothing to do with the current scandal, but they chose this high-visibility moment to vent
them.) At the entrance to the chamber, a news release was available from San Gabriel titled, “Mayor Huang announces resignation” and naming the acting mayor, Council Member David Gutierrez. According to police, following the dispute in the dumpling house at a little after 1a.m. on Friday morning, Huang sped off at 45 mph with the woman’s purse and her clinging to the running board of his SUV. Huang, who is separated from his wife and has a 3-year-old daughter, said he had resigned for family reasons and vowed to prove his innocence. “We are grateful that Mayor Huang has chosen this course of action so that the Council may focus its energies on the many important issues that face this community,” Gutierrez said.
While many residents were there to learn about high-speed rail, many others were driven out of frustration with the mayoral scandal. King Sit, an 18-year-old resident, came to the meeting to learn what was happening with his city government. “I want to know what’s going on in San Gabriel City Hall,” he said. “We need a voice. We need to speak out.” In particular, he felt that San Gabriel’s Asian community needs to become more vocal, and that Huang’s resignation was a blow to the community. Huang, who was initially chosen to replace the city’s first Asian mayor in 2006, was reelected to the Council in 2007. He was the only Asian Council Member currently serving on the San Gabriel City Council, even though the city of about 40,000 is roughly 50% Asian. “I feel so sad. We need Asians to speak out in the city,” Sit said. “We need to take action.”