Friday, March 16, 2012

A Sad Day And The Aftermath

NOTE: As I mark this day I'm going to intersperse some links to entries I wrote a year ago on this issue. Just click on the title if you wish to read more. I'm also going to include some video clips from that tragic time, to help us all remember what happened on St. Patrick's Day, 2011.


Tomorrow, Mar
ch 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.

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.

The next day, March 18th, called a press conference that, rather than calm the situati
on, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
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 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.

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.

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.

POLICY 100-6
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.

And, by now, the city is spending legal dollars like drunken sailors...

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.

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.

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.

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Anonymous So tired of the games - - said...

What is interesting if you look at the PRESS CONFERENCE, just for a moment... NO BEVER.

I am curious how many meetings he has missed since March 17. I believe he didn't respond last year either, however he was chosen by "the three" to replace Monahan- Pleeeeease!

3/16/2012 11:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

Pot Stirrer, you've captured the frustration and outrage of the people of this town.

With outrage after outrage, the councilmen keep reopening the wounds. They are not representing the people of Costa Mesa, they are abusing us.

3/16/2012 11:34:00 PM  
Anonymous revisionist troll said...

Bye Bye Stavely! I think ABLE crashing and killing two officers was a sadder day, btw.

3/17/2012 06:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Debt Slave said...

Stavely was the only person who had enough balls to tell the truth. Thank you Chief!!! It had to be said!

Why doesn't everyone do what he did? Simple. Employees of the City are all a slave to debt and choose to work to pay for things they don't need, to impress the people they don't like.

Think about it. Why else would any person work under Pigheimer's regime?

3/17/2012 04:04:00 PM  
Anonymous woodward2 said...

When does the local community college or high school journalism classes finish for summer? The Daily Pilot could use some talent. Joe Serna, why do most of his articles need to be corrected? Didn't he write originally about the suicide last year and how an employee had to be held back from Righeimer and Mensinger? Now he says it was Hatch the employee was restrained from going after. Wasn't it the OCEA Berardino who was screaming at Hatch? Serna can't spell, can't investigate nor can he write or keep facts straight. Pathetic journalism over and over from Serna. Is he a contract worker or paid employee. Just kidding Joe your writing is mesmerizing. LOL

3/17/2012 07:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Tamar said...

To Debt Slave,

I, too, honor Chief Stavely for his resignation letter ( One of the many ironies in this city government is that the last straw for Stavely, the forced elimination of 4-10 scheduling, has been reinstituted by our diplomatic new chief, Chief Gazsi, in an effort to compensate for council-directed understaffing.

However, don’t be too hard on city workers, and if you’re one of them, don’t be hard on yourself. Most people work to pay for necessities, and many desperate people are out of work. If “Dilbert” is to be believed, working conditions are difficult for many “wage slaves.”

Our loyal employees are to be thanked, not criticized, for hanging in there and doing their jobs the best they can for us as well as for their families.

As for those who are complicit in the mismanagement of the city, I share your contempt.

3/18/2012 03:05:00 AM  
Anonymous ocgopfan said...

and thanks to all the private workers who have been hit even harder than public employees, are badmouthed by unions for the quality of their work, yet soldier on and pay for the public workers. It is a tough world out there for all.

3/18/2012 12:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Tina Wilcox said...

The passage of time is not bringing any relief from the tragedy. And the council tramples all over people on a regular basis. It's become a toxic town.

3/20/2012 10:31:00 PM  

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