To Sue or Not Thusu, That’s the Question
Tulare County Supervisor Districts 4 and 5 are up for election this cycle and neither incumbent is defending his seat. Throw in the races for Tulare County District Attorney, Superintendent of Schools, and District 26 State Assembly, and this is turning out to be one of the more exciting primaries.
One of the lesser publicized races of the bunch is Tulare County Board of Supervisor District 4, where candidate Dr. Kuldip Thusu has made news recently in the Fresno Bee and Dinuba Sentinel concerning his many lawsuits and residency.
So he floated to the top of my list to check out before we got too close to the June 5 Primary.
The seat is currently held by Supervisor Steve Worthley, who is retiring after 20 years on the board.
Dr. Thusu is Dinuba’s Vice-Mayor and enjoys the highest name recognition out of the three candidates, the other two being Eddie Valero, president of the Cutler-Orosi School Board, and Romelia Castillo, a former Cutler-Orosi School Board Member and the driving force behind Dinuba’s Vietnam Wall.
Even Woodlake Mayor Rudy Mendoza, who was considering a run for supervisor, bowed out of the race out of deference to Dr. Thusu.
“He is a highly respected man in the Dinuba area,” said Mr. Mendoza.
As a long-time business owner and philanthropist, Dr. Thusu has earned the respect of the establishment, but he is not loved by all.
Questions about Dr. Thusu’s residency surfaced in 2014 when he ran against Maria McElroy for Dinuba City Council Ward 4. The Dinuba Sentinel reported in 2014 that “county officials had been flooded with inquiries from people questioning whether Kuldip Thusu …… actually lived in the district.”
Some of his constituents said he lived in Clovis. Dr. Thusu said he lived in Dinuba.
So my first stop was his home on Timothy Ave in Ward 4 of Dinuba.
With all the blinds drawn, the house was dark and locked up tight on a late Thursday afternoon. On the outside, the house had the appearance of not being lived in. Though I tried, there was a tall solid wood fence so I could not see into the small back yard.
After knocking on the door for several minutes with no response I ventured to his neighbor’s house, where I received a frosty reception.
I asked, “Does Dr. Thusu live in the house next door?”
Neighbor, “Yes, he owns the house.”
Me, “But does he live there?”
Neighbor, “I don’t live with him 24/7 so how do I know what he does with his time?”
Me, “You’re his neighbor, does he lives there?”
At this point the very defensive woman asked me, “well then how did he get elected to the city council?”
Very good question; a thought I decided to keep to myself.
When Dr. Thusu filled out his Declaration for Candidacy in July of 2014 he listed 901Timothy Ave as his residence. But the actual owners of the house were Amardeep Khushoo and Sonika Gupta, colleagues of Dr. Thusu. This would imply that the owners let Dr. Thusu use their address so he could run for city council.
This would also mean that Dr. Thusu committed perjury.
In late September, six weeks before the November 4 election, the title to 901 Timothy was transferred into Dr. Thusu and his wife’s name.
Was Dr. Thusu hedging his bets to first see if he had a good chance of winning the election before he invested in a house?
One lawyer gave me an investigation tip, “The parents live where the kids go to school.” Both his children attended Clovis North High School until leaving home in fall of 2016.
Technically, Dr. Thusu was a resident of Ward 4 when he took office, but had in fact perjured himself on his election paperwork. The Tulare County District Attorney, Tim Ward, was asked to investigate Dr. Thusu’s residency and perjury, but as one Dinuba local said, “You could drive a semi-truck through the loop holes in the residency laws.”
Besides, he added, “Thusu and Ward donate to each others’ campaigns and attend the same golf fundraisers.”
The current issue for the 2018 Board of Supervisor election is not just if he lives in Ward 4, but whether he even lives in Tulare County.
His home on Timothy Ave is a simple three bedroom, two bath 1,840 square-foot home with a one car garage worth $200,000.
His home in Clovis is a 7 bedroom 7 bath 7,713 square-foot home with a five car garage. It sits on 2.4 acres and is valued at over $1 million. The two-story home has expansive balconies off the bedrooms, a pool with a waterfall, recording studio, game room, home office, and in-home theater.
In fact, the equipment in the movie theater alone costs more than his home in Dinuba.
So where does Dr. Thusu live?
During a phone interview with Dr Thusu he agreed with me about the Clovis home, but said that his children have since moved out and that it is too big for him and his wife. He said that it has been on the market for two years and that when his wife, who is a neonatologist, is on call at Valley Children’s Hospital she has to stay in their Clovis home.
Otherwise, he said, they live fulltime in Dinuba.
Dr. Thusu added that he gives speeches and goes to meetings all over California and that his wife is also on-call in Los Angeles.
“I’m not a nine-to-five kind of guy and am always traveling,” he said.
Dr. Thusu does own a business in Dinuba, the Alta Family Health Care Clinic. For years newspapers have referred to Dr. Thusu as a general physician, or a practicing doctor at his clinic.
In a 2004 Valley Voice article Dr. Thusu said that he and his wife were assigned to Dinuba “because physicians getting their training are typically assigned to underserved areas like northern Tulare County where the poverty is high and the need is great.” He said he came to the United States to practice medicine.
But he is not a practicing doctor and never has been.
Dr. Thusu was very forthright with me about the fact he is not a doctor, but it’s troubling that for the last 20 years he has given the impression to the Dinuba Sentinel, Valley Voice and Fresno Bee that he is a practicing physician.
Dr. Thusu explained that his title comes from the fact he received his PHD in India in Experimental Medicine.
My next step was the Tulare County Court House and an on-line search for lawsuits. In the last 15 years Dr. Thusu has been sued for breach of contract by collection agencies and was sued twice in Fresno for Unlawful Detainer, for a total of seven times.
The suits revolve around his leasing equipment and not making the payments.
OFC Capital successfully sued him for $82,500 and Lyon Financial, $122,300.There were four additional cases in Fresno County involving collection agencies.
The City of Dinuba recently won a case against him for $150,000 in back rent and legal fees. They said that Dr. Thusu reneged on a 10-year lease on their Vocational Center.
Dr. Thusu says that he was promised the Vocational Center but that two years later “they changed their mind about selling it to me.” He said that he subsidized the large building for 24 months doing all the maintenance, remodeling, and paying the electricity bill.
The question is, if Dr. Thusu can’t responsibly handle his own money, how is he going to handle the Tulare County taxpayers’ money? And if it is true he lives in Fresno County, how is he going to represent the citizens of Tulare County?
As far as the other eight suits? Dr. Thusu said that he was not aware of any other cases against him.
“They must have been filed against my several old business partners,” he said.
Is it Irony or Hypocrisy?
In order to be consistent with current Supreme Court rulings on the constitution, Visalia’s City Council finished updating its sign ordinance about two years ago.
Tulare? Hasn’t made it a priority.
Tulare residents wanting to display political yard signs thought twice before pushing the metal prongs into their grass because they didn’t want to chance a visit by the Tulare Police Department.
As a result, the Law Firm of Melo and Sarsfield wrote the Tulare City Council a letter saying its sign ordinance violates the constitution and it needs to stop enforcing it or they will be sued.
Tulare County District Attorney (TCDA) Tim Ward responded to the potential lawsuit saying, “My campaign has always maintained a philosophy of respecting the rules set forth by individual cities regarding signs,” according to the Visalia Times-Delta.
Tulare’s Josh McDonnell, Community and Economic Development Director, responded to the lawsuit by saying that Melo and Sarsfield was right.
Soon after, Mr. Ward’s campaign signs for TCDA started popping up a month earlier than would have been possible without the threat of the lawsuit. So does that make Mr. Ward an astute politician or hypocrite?
Also, since Melo and Sarsfeild are mostly responsible for candidates’ new-found campaign freedom for the 2018 election, do you think Mr. Ward will send them a thank you card?
I’ll keep you posted if he does.
While immersed in reading a lawsuit against Tulare, an email popped up from a political pen pal with whom I share the latest gossip. There was a picture attached to his email with a note that said, “Brought a tear to me. Beautiful.”
I clicked on the attachment and a picture of Alex’ headstone at Exeter Cemetery took over my screen.
Alex was my husband’s and my second oldest and he died a year ago on March 12.
I was a bit taken aback to see my son’s stone, but at the same time it made me smile because his engraved cartoon looked better than I had remembered.
My pen pal is either a first or second generation Mexican American, or close enough where he is still fluent in Spanish. I am a descendent from the Great Puritan Migration of 1646.
Needless to say, our cultures differ greatly when it comes to the departed.
While I dressed up as Penny Wise from “It” and scared all the little kids in our neighborhood this Halloween, the next day, Mexicans created alters to honor their ancestors and visited family members at the cemetery.
Having a replica of a loved one’s grave marker at their home is not uncommon for Hispanics.
So, I responded saying that the inscription was something Alex often said and the stone’s graphic was one of his cartoons
“Very sweet.. special.. . Just no words.. .” He said.
The making of his headstone was a family effort. Amanda, his finance, lived with us for about three months to get her life together after Alex died.
She took one of Alex’ penguins with a red tie and redrew it onto the computer for the stone company. Joseph chose the font and did the layout, and all of us went down to Visalia Marble Works to choose the type of granite.
I was in charge of the inscription that the penguin would be depicted as saying.
Several dinners were spent discussing what Alex would want to say. Suggestions were tossed around such as “Hang in there” or “Voted least likely to leave Exeter” (that was Alex’ joke.) Then I remembered what Alex always told me before we would say goodbye after a long phone conversation.
So to all his friends, potential friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents, exes, siblings, and especially his dad – Alex has a message.
“Tell everyone that I love them.”