The Price of Arrogance: One Year Later – Remembering Huy Pham

Huy Pham Memorial Picture

Huy Pham Memorial Picture - Photo: Chris Prevatt

COSTA MESA —  One year ago today, the city of Costa Mesa issued 213 layoff notices to general and fire department employees. At approximately 3:30 in the afternoon Huy Pham, a 29 year-old maintenance worker, climbed the stairs to the roof of City Hall and jumped to his death. Pham had been waiting to meet with his supervisor, after being called in from medical leave, to receive his layoff notice.

Huy Pham’s suicide launched a firestorm of coverage of the effort, led by Councilman Jim Righeimer, to contract out as many city jobs as possible and bust the small Costa Mesa City Employees Association (CMCEA) the union representing general city workers. Pham’s suicide became a symbol and call to action to thousands of Costa Mesa residents to push back and save their city employees and preserve the quality services they deliver.

The most glaring symbol of arrogance among the members of the council majority was demonstrated by, the then Mayor, Councilman Gary Monahan. The layoff notices were issued on St. Parick’s Day, the busiest day of year for Monahan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant, Skosh Monahan’s.

Costa Mesa Councilman (Leprechaun Mayor) Gary Monahan 3/17/2011

Monahan had not visited city hall after learning of Pham’s suicide, apparently too busy getting dressed up in his spiffy green kilt, bow tie, and head scarf to be bothered with such unpleasantries. Orange County Employee’s Association (OCEA) General Manager Nick Berardino paid Monahan a visit at his pub to see why he wasn’t at city hall. OCEA represents CMCEA employees on employee relations and contract matters.

Berardino asked Monahan if he was aware that one of his city employees had committed suicide a couple hours earlier after receiving his layoff notice. Monahan said he was.

Then Berardino asked why he had not paid a visit to city hall? Monahan’s callous response says a lot about the character of Costa Mesa’s Mayor.

“I’m a businessman. I hire and fire people every day,” Monahan told Berardino.

Since this tragic day, the city has spent thousands of dollars in an attempt to trash Huy Pham as a drug addict and employee with performance problems protected by the employee union the council wants to destroy. The city council majority has hired underqualified and overpaid consultants to spin the city message in the aftermath of Pham’s suicide. The city communications consultant (recently hired as Director of Communications), Bill Lobdell has jumped through hoops to prop up council members Monahan and Righeimer and their efforts, while tearing down, or simply ignoring, the efforts of Council member Wendy Leece to oppose the rash and brazen assault on the city’s dedicated workforce.

Today, after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote their campaign, Jim Righeimer and his fellow boys on the council, Gary Monahan, Eric Bever, and unelected council member Stephen Mensinger, have mired the city in legal battles which have exposed the reality that the City is not going broke because of their employee costs. Their claims that the city is broke have been proven untrue. Their claims that contracting out most city jobs will save money have no supporting evidence. In fact, the cost of contracting out city jobs on such a wide scale could cost the city as much as $31.5 million per year for ten years in additional pension costs. Their rush to issue layoff notices was unnecessary, and their true motivations have become more and more clear.


Because they lost their initial battle to immediately layoff hundreds of workers, Righeimer and his boys are attempting to cram a city charter initiative down the throats of Costa Mesa voters so they can bypass the state laws preventing them from doing whatever they want to do. Dozens of city residents have addressed the council over the past year, urging that the majority slow down their outsourcing efforts and the Charter initiative process. Righeimer and crew have refused to consider any modification of their plans.

The proposed initiative may not make it to the ballot in June as planned because of the failure of the city to file required paperwork to the Registrar of Voters on time. City Attorney Tom Duarte has vowed to go to court to get a judge to bend the rules and place the measure on the June ballot.

“The City’s position is that the decision on whether to put the charter measure on the ballot should not be determined by a clerical error,” Duarte said in his written press statement.

What is clear from the statement released by Duarte is that he plans to pass the buck and placed the blame on the City Clerk for his failure to ensure that all deadlines were met.

Since Righeimer has already vowed to take his city charter measure to voters again in November if it didn’t pass in June, it is likely he will move it forward in November if Duarte’s court challenge is not successful.

It was one year ago that I became a community activist and a blogger for TheLiberalOC.  It began when I heard about what happened at City Hall on Facebook less than an hour after it happened.  As I watched the news unfold that day, and listened with disgust at the reaction of the Mayor as he partied at his bar with callous disregard not only for the employees who’d been given their pink slips, but the death of one of those employees by suicide at City Hall.  I decided that I had to get involved somehow and with out any real clue how that would be, I went to Google to look for some kind of liberal organization or publication that would point me in the right direction.  I sent a sample blog into TheLiberalOC and was accepted as a new blogger.

I became a citizen who became actively involved in the fight against, what I consider to be, the destruction of the quality of life in Costa Mesa by the four male members of our city council.  Many citizens, and despite what the council boys would have us believe not just union members and members of their families, began taking on the job activism for the cause of saving our city.   It has been inspiring to see.  I will never forget that first council meeting after the tragedy that I attended with my daughter.  Seeing one citizen after another, on both the left and right of political spectrum stand up and speak out LOUDLY and STRONGLY expressing their anger with the council majority over what had occurred and what was unfolding because of their actions.

While I would like to celebrate in some small way my one year anniversary at TheLiberalOC, that desire is over shadowed by what this anniversary date also is—the date our city council members sunk to a new low in behavior in the face of tragedy. This date in history represents the cost of their arrogance, and unbridled lust to tear the city to pieces in pursuit of an extremist right-wing political agenda.

The anniversary of the release of 213 layoff notices and Huy Pham’s tragic death reminds all of us of the price the community of Costa Mesa has paid because of the arrogance of four boys on the Costa Mesa City Council.

One year later, the battle is far from over.

Editor’s Note: There have been several acknowledgements of this anniversary published in local publications. Below is a list of what we are aware. if our readers are aware of others, please let us all know in a comment to this post.

A Bubbling Cauldron:

Huy Pham Remembered
A Sad Day and the Aftermath

Voice of OC:

A Year After Suicide, Costa Mesa Remains an Unsettled City

The Daily Pilot:

A life lost, a city changed

  23 comments for “The Price of Arrogance: One Year Later – Remembering Huy Pham

  1. Randy
    March 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Apparently one of Costa Mesa’s better employees. He was only warned about sleeping on the job twice. And I’m sure that the fact he was high on coke when he jumped had nothing to do with it. It’s only the fault of the bad city council. Image, an employee warned for sleeping on the job. If he’s high on coke in the evening, exactly when does Riggy expect him to sleep?

    • junior
      March 17, 2012 at 4:16 pm

      I guess there will be no St. Paddies Day celebration on the LOC blog for the forseeable future.

      • threebeers
        March 17, 2012 at 9:39 pm

        not high on cocaine… the chemical compound found in his system is associated with the pain meds he was taking for his injury… but why let facts get in the way?

        Lies and comments like yours about dead people lead to a one way ticket on the hell train.

        • cook
          March 18, 2012 at 10:20 am

          “This amount is hard to explain other than cocaine use,” said Dr. Daniel Headrick, who specializes in drug detoxification at Mission Pacific Coast Recovery. “That’s a significant amount in the blood.”

          • Kathy Findley
            March 18, 2012 at 10:12 pm

            I happen to be certified in Drug and Alcohol Studies, and I know I was trained that there are many prescription medications that have the same properties as cocaine, As if you or any others commenting on his death really know what exactly was in the autopsy any way. What we do know is that the young man’s employee record was released to the press by the city council to drag this boy through the mud and detract attention from the unforgivable behavior of the mayor in the aftermath. No one blamed the council for his death, but there is a way DECENT people behave in the wake of such an tragedy. Secondly, cocaine or not, he was clearly a troubled young man, and deserving of our compassion as is his family. Commenters like Randy display the very worse in human nature. The sadistic joy people like him get out of slandering a dead man, not here to defend himself, and hurting his already devastated family if they should happen to read this post. In addition, I would like to point out that alcohol kills more drugs than all illegal drugs combined, and our mayor owns a bar and has been known to pound a few drinks himself on frequent occasions. Does that make him both a dealer and a user? Or is it ok because alcohol is legal. People in glass houses, shouldn’t get drunk and start throwing stones my friends.

      • March 18, 2012 at 1:07 am

        No junior, I think not. Monahan and the rest of Righeimer’s gang kind of ruined it for me. I guess that’s just the price of the arrogance.

        • March 18, 2012 at 1:45 pm

          Same here Chris. Thanks to TLOC and Kathy for excellent coverage of Righeimer’s “Wisconsin in Costa Mesa” offensive. This is nothing less than class warfare. It’ll take awhile, but with help from people like you, we will rid our city of these locusts.

  2. Phil
    March 19, 2012 at 9:33 am

    No one has ever connected his death to the layoff notices. To do so is irresponsible reporting and seeks to cater to the lowest common denominator. I;m not surprised here.

    In one year the only thing that has changed is the employees have gotten richer, residents have gotten poorer, lawyers have made lots of money (thanks to the union) and we have a City that is aging.

    Outsourcing will come. We will save money and we will put our City back on the right track. We will not watch Costa Mesa become another Santa Ana that SEIU ran into the ground.

    • March 19, 2012 at 4:52 pm

      Why are you propagandizing here instead of in your own blog?

      • Sloane fun 1981
        March 19, 2012 at 10:23 pm

        Why are you?

    • Kathy Findley
      March 19, 2012 at 5:01 pm

      At no time in this blog post is Huy Pham’s death being connected directly to the lay offs. The lay off was though, the catalyst, Period. This blog post is commentary and most certainly is, in that respect, very responsible reporting. If you had read it, you would know that.

  3. OCnative73
    March 19, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    I hate to break it to you, but Jim Righeimer and Gary Monahan didn’t cause Pham’s death. That is among the most dishonest and outright libelous things I’ve read all year. Pham’s death is a tragedy, as it is when anyone takes their life in a moment of depression or struggle. But people get laid off from their job’s all the time. It happens every day to thousands of people in this country – in the public and private sectors. Lifelong employment from one employer is incredibly rare in today’s world. As hard as it is, people have dust themselves off, put themselves back out there and press on. What elevates a city employee above all other humans? This article is sick, and you should be ashamed to put such a terrible event on two men that would never wish such an outcome on someone. Your sick.

    • Kathy Findley
      March 19, 2012 at 8:29 pm

      ONCE again for the man who can neither read nor does he know the difference between “your” and “you’re,” I DID NOT SAY that Righeimer or Monahan were responsible for Pham’s death. For further explanation, go back to square one, read the whole post and the comments written by myself to follow. A catalyst, big word I know, is just a part of a chain of events, sadly for Pham it was the last in the chain. Can you follow? I didn’t think so.

    • March 19, 2012 at 10:14 pm

      I hate to break it to you OCnative73; Nowhere in the post is Huy Pham’s death blamed on Righeimer or Monahan. As Kathy correctly points out, the layoffs were a catalyst. That is a fact evidenced by the fact that Huy Pham would not have even been at city hall had it not been for the distribution of layoff notices that day.

      Monahan’s arrogance in ignoring the tragedy and celebrating by posing as a knock-off leprechaun was appropriately articulated.

      I find your position on the mission of Righeimer, Monahan, Bever, and Mensinger to fire all city workers as some noble cause that happens every day is a bit sick.

      And for the record, Kathy has nothing to be ashamed of, and as Publisher, I am proud to have her commentary grace our pages.

      • Kathy Findley
        March 19, 2012 at 10:19 pm

        Thanks Chris!

  4. OCnative73
    March 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Oh please. YOU’RE obviously linking the two. Your words, “The anniversary of the release of 213 layoff notices and Huy Pham’s tragic death reminds all of us of the price the community of Costa Mesa has paid because of the arrogance of four boys on the Costa Mesa City Council.” How are you not attributing Pham’s death to these men?

    Your connection implies potential layoffs=death. Being POTENTIALLY laid off does not signal that you should jump off a bridge. And stating the fact that people get laid off or fired from their jobs everyday is not sick. It is a fact of life. No one makes any sob stories for citizens in the private sector who get laid off, terrible as it is. But because it’s a public employee they are some sort of martyrs?? You still have not explained why you elevate public employees over all other people. Your article and your defense of it is completely bunk. PERIOD.

    • junior
      March 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm

      I agree – well stated OCnative73.

  5. Kathy Findley
    March 20, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    There are plenty of “sob stories” for private sector citizens who get laid off. Times are rough for most people. You can define the post any way you want, I know my intent and stand by it. At least I have the guts to sign my real name to the post and my comments instead of hiding my identity. Everyone sees things a little differently, and you know, that’s a good thing. And by the way, Junior, my F-bomb dropping friend, you said I was a “vile” human being and you were done with me for good. What happened???? Couldn’t resist? 😉 I missed you. Chris and Dan say you are a good guy! I guess I can take their word for it. Have a wonderful week gentlemen.

  6. March 20, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Haha. Only someone as shallow and manipulative enough to link a man’s suicide to innocent men would try to make themselves the victim! My name is Michael Thies and I’ve been a Costa Mesa resident since 1998. Guts enough for you?? If you don’t want people commenting on your articles…don’t post them on the internet. You’re a joke.

    • Kathy Findley
      March 20, 2012 at 8:03 pm

      We all expect people to comment on our posts. I have been in Orange County since 1978 and figure that I can pretty much count on someone like you going on, and on and on…… goes with the territory.

  7. March 20, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    Michael — no one here said the Costa Mesa council was responsible for Huy Pham’s death — that’s you projecting. We stated correctly that the layoff notices was the tipping point that led to grave consequences and we’ve been critical of the Mayor’s actions on the day of the actual suicide.

    Comment all you want, but be prepared to defend your reading comprehension issues.

  8. March 20, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    “Seeing one citizen after another, on both the left and right of political spectrum stand up and speak out LOUDLY and STRONGLY expressing their anger with the council majority over what had occurred and what was unfolding because of their actions.” Their actions? You are trying to tell me you are not attributing his death to them?

    You are trying to capitalize on a man’s suicide to advance your own desire to see the city council discredited and I’m guessing removed. If you don’t like the council, that is your right. It is also your right to express your dislike for them and your opinion of their performance. Using a man’s death is not the way to do that. It is shameful, manipulative and dishonest.

  9. March 20, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    I have no reading comprehension problem, I graduated Cum Laude and also hold a Masters Degree. Please don’t try to call me an idiot. You may not like me because I call out your bogus writers on very outrageous claims, but I’m no idiot with a “reading comprehension” problem.

Comments are closed.