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Costa Mesa, Ca. Mayor Parties After Soon To Be Laid Off City Worker Jumps To His Death!

Updated on March 31, 2011

Mayor Monahan Dressed For St. Patrick's Day Party!


Costa Mesa Mayor Monahan Decides To Outsource City Jobs!

The Republican mayor of Costa Mesa, California, Gary Monahan, was reported to be dressed in a kilt, serving beer, dancing a jig and celebrating St. Patrick's Day at his local bar, just hours after being told that a city employee jumped to his death from the roof of City Hall. Huy Pham, 29, had worked for the city for four years and was scheduled to be laid off as part of an outsourcing plan that will end the employment of half the city's workforce when it takes effect in September. It is reported that the city has not even procured contracts with private companies, yet they sent out layoff notices. They have made no attempts to negotiate this with the city workers or their association prior to their decision.

Joseph Serna, in an article in the LA Times, reports on March 18: "Adding to the uncertainty is that much of the city's outsourcing plans are still up in the air. A deal to have the Orange County Fire Authority take over city fire protection is still in the works. And City Council members have said that if they can't find private contractors to replace city staff, the layoffs could be rescinded."

Calitics reported, of the action: "They didn't do any studies about cost effectiveness. They didn't show their work. They just appointed a two-person committee that arbitrarily came up with a list of departments that might benefit from outsourcing, then rammed it through in a single Council meeting."

According to the Voice of Orange County in an article by Chris Prevatt, published on March 18, 2011:

"Orange County Employee’s Association General Manager Nick Berardino paid Monahan a visit at his pub to see why he wasn’t at city hall.

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 everyday,"  Monahan told Berardino."

Monahan later said that the photos of him were designed by the unions to set him up, to portray him in a bad light and additionally stated that at the time of the party, he did not know of the employee's death. He later walked back those remarks. He did know of the employee's death, but said he had a business to run. To be fair, he also stated that City Hall was emotionally charged. He was afraid that his appearance (hopefully, he would have changed out of his kilt) might have created a bigger crisis. It was reported that two friends of his, that are also members of city council were there and were escorted home by police.

The lone member of the City Council, who remained at City Hall, to speak with employees, reporters and city residents, stayed until well into the night. That member was Councilwoman Wendy Leece. She was also the only member of the City Council who voted against the layoffs. She was concerned because there had been no research done in regards to feasability or even a cost benefit analysis. In short, this was a hastily drafted, little researched proposal. She advocates having the ruling rescinded.

The City of Costa Mesa may have to rethink their ruling based on a number of lawsuits that have now been proposed.

Mayor Less than 1 Block Away When Worker Died...But He Wouldn't Come...

Monahan Issues Statement!


Yesterday was a heartbreaking day for all of us call Costa Mesa home.

What is lost in all of the rhetoric is the fact that this is a tragic incident in the midst of a very difficult situation. Our city lost one of it's brethren, and it certainly will take some time for it to heal. 

Before I was informed of yesterday's incident, the union decided to take despicable advantage of this tragic situation to advance their agenda.

Had I known what transpired, I never would have agreed to pose for photos or engage in any revelry. 

I became informed of the situation and contacted two of my fellow council members, who were on the scene, and quickly brought me up to speed with the details of the situation. 

After learning of the volatility of the situation, I realized that my presence could further inflame and escalate the situation, and decided not to visit City Hall.

I remained in constant communication with my council colleagues, and was kept informed as the rest of the day transpired.

I understand the anger and hurt surrounding these potential layoffs. I- and my council colleagues, have not made these decisions lightly, and we realize that our decisions are impacting families.

As Tom explained, we are working with staff to work through this very difficult situation, and I am hopeful that we can eliminate the politicization of this tragic incident, and work together to heal our great city. 

Gary Monahan

The mayor did stay at his pub, remained dressed in his party attire, did continue to make sure that the beer flowed freely and reportedly, continued to be the life of the party.

Costa Mesa Is A Snapshot Of All Cities Throughout The Nation!

Newspapers in every small town throughout Southern California, indeed throughout the country, have been inundated with articles regarding budget shortfalls. They talk of increasing deficits, which they state are caused by employees and their benefits. They propose employee outsourcing, rollback of wages or benefits, or even elimination of key city departments, such as the Costa Mesa Fire Department. What the articles never mention, however, is capital expendidtures that have been approved by these same city councils and mayors. The capital expenditures often cost far more than any elimination of employee jobs.

In several cities north of San Diego and south of Costa Mesa, newly elected mayors are trying to employ some of the same tactics, taking a hard-line approach to employee benefits and wages, while on the other hand, promoting multi-million dollar projects that may generate little revenue, actually require major city support and do little or nothing to improve the lives of current residents.

For example:

  • the City Of Escondido, which just completed a new police station, is planning both a controversial $50 million dollar ballpark and a $70 million dollar hotel complex, but at the same time, the city roads are full of potholes and the city contains many blighted neighborhoods.
  • the City of Carlsbad, home of the world famous, La Costa Resort and Golf Course, has its own city golf course, operating at a loss of 2 million dollars a year and has plans to open an aquatic park, with a $70 million dollar pricetag. LegoLand, the nationally known theme-park in Carlsbad, is opening is own water park. UPDATE: The City Of  Carlsbad is seeking to privatize and outsource the jobs of city workers. They are also proposing that all city workers become at-will employees. These proposals will destroy the CCEA, the employee association, and will effectively destroy the right to bargain by city employees, but will realize the goal of GOP Mayor Matt Hall; outsourcing all jobs to private companies. How many of those companies will be owned by his cronies and what is he getting in return? 
  • the City of Vista, while laying off city employees, just spent $38 million dollars on land.

These are but a few examples of expenditures, that during a time of economic stagnation and cost cutting, seem to fly in the face of the often 'two faces' of city halls throughout the state of California and elsewhere. While only three examples are offered, they are far from the exception.

Almost all city governments have asked for and have received pay cut concessions and increased employee contributions to health care and retirement costs, and while they cite the necessity for cost-cutting measures and the severe economic emergencies they all face, continue to spend money on capital investments that many residents deem questionable, at best. Many of these little tyrant mayors seek to outsource all jobs held by city employees.

While middle class wage earners that actually do the work, bear the brunt of the cuts, the most highly-compensated pay of management and supervisors face little scrutiny. City managers, in several towns and small cities, earn well into triple figure salaries, many at close to or more than $300,000 annually. City Attorneys fall into that salary range. Many times, both departments have multi-million dollar budgets.

Management in other departments also earn mid-level triple digit incomes. Prior to announcing mass lay-offs, perhaps cities should take a step back and re-examine which employees are actually costing them the money. In the case of Costa Mesa, surely it was not the $45,000 yearly paycheck earned by Huy Pham that was compromising the city. Compromising does not even come close to describing the economic situation in Costa Mesa. Costa Mesa was faced with a less than $2 million dollar shortfall out of a $110 million dollar budget, of which over $2 million was allocated for just the office of the City Manager. Firing over 200 workers, without comprehensive review, falls far short of fiscal sanity.

Any number of cities and towns also allocate money to seek out and pay consultants. In Costa Mesa, the budgeted expenditure for consultants was $3.5 million dollars. Any time you are looking at expenditures, make sure you take note of consulting budgets. In light of the suicide of Huy Pham, Costa Mesa has now hired consultants to handle the barrage of complaints coming into the city. 

The Nuclear Option

In Serna's article in the LA Times, Costa Mesa "appears to have gone with the nuclear option," said Joe Nation, a professor of public policy at Stanford University who is studying the issue of underfunded public pensions. To read more, link to:

In the face of cuts to city government, figure out just who your mayor is. In most cases of smaller cities and towns, mayors also own and run their own businesses. They are deeply entrenched in their local business communities and most have friends that also are business owners. Do they want to steer business to their friends? Do they stand to profit, even indirectly, from that business? Think about motives. They are always important. Visit your local City Hall. Get information on expenditures. Find the information that you would need to make an educated decision in regards to proposed budget cuts, as well as proposed projects. Think about who benefits from the cuts and who suffers. Think about budget cuts in terms of real people. These real people are losing their jobs, their rights to bargain are being taken away.

Huy Pham was a real person. He was a young worker, supporting his mother, who loved him. He was a college student. He had friends and co-workers that cared about him. Every city worker has family and friends. They are your neighbors. They do not deserve to have their jobs discarded after one City Council meeting, based on a plan that was not researched and was not the last in a list of options, but the first.


Submit a Comment

  • Jillian Barclay profile imageAUTHOR

    Jillian Barclay 

    7 years ago from California, USA

    Dear Amillar,

    This is a world-wide problem and until I started reading your articles, did not realize that the same was happening in the U.K. Thank you for opening my eyes!

    I don't know how to solve it or stop it, but somehow we must. The young people, the world over, are going to have to be our answer, I think. We just have to keep writing, hoping that some of it is seen on the internet, and that it is absorbed. I protested in the 60's and 70's. I am getting older, but, hey! I guess I can still hold a sign and I know how to stage a sit-in.

    The things happening today are far more serious than what happened in the 60's. The banks and corporations are planning to destroy the entire middle class, worldwide.

    Thanks, Amillar! Please continue to keep me informed of things on your side of the Pond!

  • amillar profile image


    7 years ago from Scotland, UK

    The same sort of thing is all over Jillian. I don't mean the tragedy in particular; I mean cut backs while bankers are still filling their boots, which has the potential to cause much similar tragedies. I think I heard US politicians using the same old 'we're all in this together' expression that we get here in the UK. There's not much evidence of that. But, unfortunately there isn't much evidence of 'the people' pulling together either. That's the problem.

    However, your hubs are up there - for when people are ready to listen.

  • Jillian Barclay profile imageAUTHOR

    Jillian Barclay 

    7 years ago from California, USA

    Dear Fay and Terry,

    I have been sick about this ever since it happened. This young man was truly loved by his co-workers and they are all devastated! No one disliked this guy! Even city workers from other towns in Southern California are all very upset.

    The assault on these workers has been non-stop since January, with the swearing-in of all the new little tyrant mayors that were elected in November. Several months ago, the focus was on illegal immigrants, but in January the new scapegoats became city workers. Most of these small towns have populations of about 100,000 to 150,000 people and the mayors, for the most part, are local business owners. They all ran on bringing business and jobs to the cities, which is great. They did not say that they were going to bring businesses by firing the current workers and steering private jobs provided by their friends, but that is what is happening.

    Most of these city workers are not covered by Social Security because 20 years ago, the cities did not want to pay into the system. They thought it would be cheaper. That is how these workers ended up getting the pension plans they currently have. Now the cities want to do away with the pension plans and the health insurance. City government makes it sound like the employees and their families get free health care. They don't. The employee may end up not paying premiums for himself (depending on the plan they choose), but they pay big bucks for any family members that are insured. Families can end up paying $700 to $800 dollars per month, and of course, like everyone else, they have copays, deductibles, etc.

    Some cities have tried outsourcing in the past and the results of the outsourcing has been disastrous! Fire response time is slowed, roads don't get fixed, sewer systems are not maintained--it has been horrible! And then, the for profit companies end up charging higher and higher prices for less services.

    Don't know what will eventually happen, but the behavior of Costa Mesa's mayor is shameful and should be known by everyone! He is a one man scandal!

    Sorry for going on and on, but I am really upset about this whole travesty! What an unnecessary waste of a young life!

  • Terry.Hirneisen profile image


    7 years ago from Shenandoah Valley

    Terrific Expose! This was all new to me. I thought California had better local governments.

  • profile image

    Fay Paxton 

    7 years ago

    Jillian, of course you did an excellent job reporting this travesty, but this just makes me ill. We're turning into a third world country.

    voted up/useful


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