Allegations surface against San Jose council hopefuls
San Jose City Hall is pictured in this file photo.

    As the San Jose City Council prepares to fill the vacant District 8 seat on Tuesday, documents obtained by San José Spotlight are raising questions about the character and qualifications of several finalists.

    The candidates vying to represent Evergreen and East San Jose are Salvador Alvarez, Patricia Andrade, Sukhdev Bainiwal, Domingo Candelas and Tam Truong. The five finalists out of a pool of 13 applicants received the most support from councilmembers and are set to be interviewed publicly Tuesday before an appointee is selected.

    But three of the five are facing individual allegations of wage theft, domestic abuse or concerns about residency in the district.

    Wage theft accusations

    Truong, a San Jose police sergeant who unsuccessfully ran for city council in 2012, owes more than $30,000 to a former employee of his private security company, documents reviewed by San José Spotlight show. Truong started his company, Training and Protective Services, in 2012.

    In a wage theft case filed with the state labor commissioner in 2014, one of Truong’s employees, Kevin Halverson, claimed he worked nearly 1,700 hours in the first half of 2013, but was paid for only a little more than 500 hours.

    Following a hearing and testimony from Halverson and some of his coworkers in early 2015, the labor commissioner ordered Truong to pay Halverson $34,071 in wages, damages, interest and penalties.

    Huy Tran, an attorney who represented Halverson, said Truong filed for bankruptcy after the order was issued. He said Halverson never got a penny. Truong’s company dissolved a short time later.

    “Based on the facts, Tam didn’t follow the law,” Tran told San José Spotlight. “And he also has never been held accountable for it.”

    Tran also brought another wage theft case against Truong, but he said that case was resolved through a confidential settlement.

    Truong, 41, said the settled case involved a difference of opinion over whether some workers should be categorized as independent contractors.

    “We believed they were contractors, but in the end it wasn’t (correct),” Truong told San José Spotlight. “So we took corrective measures to make sure the employees are taken care of and we settled it out of court.”

    Truong started his security company to offer private patrols for neighborhoods just as the city’s police force was hemorrhaging officers due to Measure B, a 2012 ballot measure that slashed retirement benefits for police officers. Truong supported the controversial measure in his 2012 council run.

    In early 2015, the San Jose Police Department suspended Truong’s department-issued outside work permit, which the department uses to monitor officers’ business interests separate from police work, while police leaders considered whether it was a conflict for him to profit from the department’s short staffing problems, according to the Mercury News.

    Domestic violence allegations

    Another candidate for the District 8 seat, Bainiwal, is facing accusations of domestic violence and abuse. He’s a 56-year-old engineer, former airport commissioner and longtime director on the board of the Sikh Gurdwara of San Jose.

    A 1999 declaration from Bainiwal’s ex-wife during divorce and child custody proceedings accuses him of physical, mental and sexual abuse. She also said Bainiwal’s family friends, including a dentist, prescribed her medication to keep her calm.

    “I felt and was in essence a slave to my ex-husband and his family,” she wrote. “I was literally in a circle that I could not escape.”

    She described their arranged marriage as a nightmare.

    “My mother-in-law would tell my husband to keep me busy so I would not have time to think. I had called the police a few times on his abuse, but I never pressed charges because I was afraid of him and his family,” she wrote.

    In an interview with San José Spotlight, Bainiwal denied the allegations from his ex, who has since moved back to India with her family. He said his former wife was suffering from mental health issues, including what he described as “manic depressive” episodes, and at times skipped medication, which led to their divorce.

    “I would never put my hands on anybody at all, or abuse anybody, mentally or physically,” Bainiwal said. “That’s just not me. It was because of her mental status that she put all that stuff there.”

    He said he’s been happily married to his current wife for 22 years and remains friends with his in-laws from the previous marriage.

    Bainiwal’s ex brother-in-law Rajinder Singh told San José Spotlight he never saw his sister being abused when he lived with the couple for a few months in the 1990s.

    The ex-wife could not be reached for comment. Singh declined to share contact information for his sister in India.

    Questions about residency

    Meanwhile, Andrade, who is rumored to be former Councilmember Sylvia Arenas’ pick to succeed her, is being accused of not living in District 8.

    Andrade is the president of the Evergreen School District Board of Trustees and worked for Arenas doing community relations. But her family home where she’s lived for two decades is in the unincorporated foothills, about a half-mile outside the district’s boundaries. Andrade said she moved out of the home in November and is living with a friend to qualify for the appointment.

    “So I had to quickly find a place to live in District 8. My family still lives in our house because we couldn’t find a place that was big enough for all of us,” Andrade told San José Spotlight.

    The city council will appoint a District 8 representative at its meeting at 3 p.m. on Tuesday. Learn how to watch and participate.

    Editor’s note: A previous version of this story reported an incorrect number in the wage theft case against Truong.

    Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on Twitter.

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