A Sad Day And The Aftermath
A SAD ANNIVERSARY MARKED
Tomorrow, March 17th - St. Patrick's Day - marks the first anniversary of what may have been singularly the worst day in Costa Mesa's history. It was on that day that the new, misguided City Council authorized the issuance of 6-month layoff notices to nearly half the city staff. 203 people received those notices and, as a sad exclamation point to that event, a 29-year old maintenance worker who had been called in from home - where he was on sick leave - to receive his notice, Huy Pham, leaped to his death from the roof of City Hall. Due to the tense circumstances, Chief Staveley and his command staff authorized a protective detail for Steve Mensinger and Jim Righeimer, who were escorted home and officers were posted outside for the night.
The pain of the day was exacerbated by then-mayor Gary Monahan's insensitivity to the situation. Instead of going to City Hall to see about the welfare of the employees, he chose to remain at his gin mill and pull beer taps and party with his customers while wearing his cute little cap and kilt. He later told a television crew, "What was I supposed to do? It was the biggest day of my life!" I speculated at the time that he may have doomed his political future with his actions that day.
QUIET REMEMBRANCE THAT NIGHT
A candlelight vigil was held at the site of Pham's death that evening. Dozens of employees and residents gathered to quietly and respectfully pay their respects to Pham.
Costa Mesa Issues Press Release About Huy Pham
Monahan's Prepared Statement Released
DISASTROUS PRESS CONFERENCE
The next day, March 18th, called a press conference that, rather than calm the situation, only added fuel to the growing fire of discontent. As it turned out, it was a bellwether of things to come - an informational meeting that provided no information. This YouTube video tells that story.
CIRCLE THE CITY
On the following Monday, March 21st, more than 100 residents and employees gathered in a cold drizzle to circle the City Hall in a prayer vigil in remembrance of Huy Pham.
FORMAL RECOGNITION OF THE LOSS
That afternoon there was a formal memorial service at City Hall in the parking lot near where Pham died. Dozens of employees and residents gathered to hear him eulogized and to pay their respects. The display of flowers, candles and other mementos grew.
MEDIA WAS EVERYWHERE
As you might expect, the news media was all over this story. Helicopters hovered over City Hall on the 17th and television crews lined the parking lot for what seemed like days at a time.
THE FLASH POINT
This event was the flash point for more than a year of turmoil in Costa Mesa that degenerated into virtual walls being built between employees and city management, lawsuits being filed and inept management displayed on a regular basis. I think it's safe to say that this has been the worst, most contentious year in the history of our city.
THE STORY STARTED EARLIER
This story actually began earlier in 2011, when a two-person "Working Group" consisting of Gary Monahan and Jim Righeimer recommended to the full council that consideration should be given to outsourcing nearly every job in the city. That set the tone for the next few weeks, which culminated in the required 6-month notices being distributed on St. Patrick's Day.
Costa Mesa To Discuss Outsourcing Nearly EVERY Job
First The Fun, Then The Bad News
More Views Of Outsourcing Decision
Over the next few months the Outsourcing issue dominated the headlines in our city and seemed to occupy every waking moment for the city staff. Meeting after meeting filled to capacity with angry, frustrated employees. It was not a happy time.
"The People" Spoke - Did The Council Listen?
Mensinger's View Of The Rabble Before Him
Hatch - No Staff Increases On His Watch!
The ham-handed way this issue was handled finally forced then Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley - a man with 40 years of law enforcement leadership - to resign leaving behind a caustic letter that pointed out the folly of this city council in no uncertain terms.
Simultaneously, the council - in a bogus attempt to plead municipal poverty - decided to disband the AirBorne Law Enforcement organization (A.B.L.E.) to save some money, which kept the city in turmoil.
INJUNCTION, GAZSI AND THE CHINA TRIP
About that time the employees won a preliminary injunction against the outsourcing scheme and a new police chief, Tom Gazsi, was hired. Then Righeimer and public affairs manager Dan Joyce went off to China on a boondoggle to theoretically bring business from an empty Chinese city to Costa Mesa... a kind of arrogant, in-your-face move that rankled most of the rank and file employees.
Gazsi Named Costa Mesa Police Chief!
Righeimer & Joyce Off To China
Then the city, in another step to what they called "transparency", released a detailed employee compensation report, which was widely misinterpreted and only led to more strain between the city, employees and the public.
And then it was determined that, in addition to not following the advice of then-City Attorney Kim Barlow initially on their outsourcing scheme, the council also ignored council policy 100-6 and, as a result, had to re-start the entire RFP process over again. And, of course, this just kept the turmoil roiling.
Tad Friend's Great Costa Mesa Adventure**
Labor Day In Costa Mesa
LAWYER, LOTS OF LAWYERS
And, by now, the city is spending legal dollars like drunken sailors...
Appellate Court Rejects Costa Mesa Petition
Uh-Oh! They're Back!
Judge Rejects City's Attempt To Dismiss Lawsuit
JIM RIGHEIMER'S CHARTER
Then, last fall, Righeimer announced that he wanted Costa Mesa to be come a Charter City and promptly charged the new contract City Attorney to come back with a plan. What actually happened was that Righeimer went away and cobbled together a short cut-and-paste document that was tailored to meet his own personal political agenda, including some of his pet peeves from the past - like Paycheck Protection, for example. This issue has only perpetuated the turmoil in the city from last November until the current day.
Surreal Council Meeting - Again
Imported Shill Speaks Out
"Jim Righeimer's Charter" Will Be On June Ballot
Charter Might Not Be On June Ballot
GARY JUMPS DOWN
And then Gary Monahan stepped down as Mayor and our part time, part time lame duck councilman, Eric Bever, was selected to replace him in the big chair for the remaining 9 months of his last (we hope) term.
THANKS TO THE EMPLOYEES
Chaotic doesn't come close to describing this past year. Personally, I'm extremely grateful to those loyal, hardworking employees who have remained on the job, working hard, despite the hostile workplace that has been created by this current council.
I hope we all remember just what created this terrible situation when it comes time to choose three council members in November. That is when we can take this city back from the lock-step lemmings who are following orders from the Orange County Republican Party and get back to actually managing this city with an even hand.