Negotiations Over Tet Festival Break Down Between UVSA and Garden Grove: Update

See update at the end about possible alternate locations for the 2014 Tet Festival.

Cancelled... for now.
Cancelled... for now.
Photo by Eric Hood

ORIGINAL POST, OCT. 25, 8:30 A.M.: Negotiations between Garden Grove and the United Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California (UVSA) over the organization of the annual Tet Festival ended abruptly yesterday after the UVSA refused the city's final offer.

The UVSA's second five-year contract with the city to host the festival ended last year. Garden Grove was willing to allow the UVSA to host additional festivals, but wanted the organization to pay $145,000 annually to cover costs, an increase of already existing fees. From 2009 to 2013, the UVSA paid to the city between $40,000 and $63,000, according to UVSA data provided to the Bolsavik, a blog published by former Nguoi Viet Managing Editor Hao-Nhien Q. Vu.

UVSA offered to pay $105,000, the total amount of money that the festival allegedly costs the city, as well as donate $20,000, but the city refused that offer, according to the UVSA.

"Obviously, the costs were much greater than we were charging before, so there was sticker shock for them," Garden Grove Community Services Director Kim Huy told the City News Service.

City officials also cited weak book keeping and weak support of Garden Grove non-profits as reasons for the cessation of negotiations.

"We hoped to continue the positive partnership we had established with the UVSA," said Mayor Bruce A. Broadwater. "However, in light of their inadequate bookkeeping and lack of support for very worthy nonprofit organizations in the Garden Grove community, we had a responsibility to ensure that a new agreement would be fair, and like any other contract, protect the city from any financial risks."

Under the former contract, a city-selected CPA firm reviewed the Tet Festivals books after each event. UVSA claims to have donated over $1 million to community organizations over the run of the festival on its website -- supposedly 50 percent of the profit generated.

Headed elsewhere?
Headed elsewhere?
Photo by Eric Hood

An early draft of a proposed contract stipulated that if the UVSA wanted to continue to host the event in the city, they would have to pay a minimum $75,000 annually to an unrelated third-party organization, the Vietnam War Museum of America Foundation. Mayor Broadwater and Garden Grove Mayor Pro Tem Dina Nguyen are both board members of the organization. Subsequent drafts of the contract dropped mention of the foundation.

The 2014 Tet Festival was originally scheduled for Jan. 31 to Feb. 2. The UVSA will hold a press conference on Oct. 26 regarding the future of the festival.

UPDATE, OCT. 26, 2:30 P.M.:

The 2014 Tet Festival is still on, according to the UVSA at a press conference hosted today. The festival is still scheduled for Jan. 31 - Feb. 2 and though a new venue has not been located. The organizers want to keep the event in Little Saigon and are looking at possibly hosting the event in Huntington Beach, Santa Ana or Westminster.

The press conference was attended by mostly Vietnamese American media and community members, but Garden Grove Councilmembers Chris Phan and Kris Beard were in attendance. Both expressed a desire to keep the festival in Garden Grove, but reiterated that UVSA's auditing system needed to improve.

"The amount of money we're talking about can be negotiated," said Phan. "The most important thing is that we continue to have a Tet festival for our past and for our future."

"We do want the festival," said Beard later in the public comment period. "I want to welcome you back, I want you to be in Garden Grove. I'm sad we've come to this impasse, but I'm an optimist and I hope some kind of 11th hour compromise can bring the festival back."

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