Mayor's absence sparks unions' ire

Gary Monahan says there are things he wishes he 'would've done differently' since not going to City Hall immediately after last week's suicide.

March 21, 2011|By Mike Reicher and Joseph Serna,,
  • Gary Monahan on St. Patrick's Day 2011.
Gary Monahan on St. Patrick's Day 2011.

COSTA MESA — Mayor Gary Monahan has come under fire from employee associations for not showing up at City Hall last week after a maintenance worker expecting a layoff notice jumped from the roof and died.

Monahan instead chose to continue working at his Irish pub, Skosh Monahan's, on what is normally the busiest day of the year, St. Patrick's Day.

"In retrospect, there's things I wish I would've done differently," Monahan said Monday. "I would've found a way to at least get down to City Hall for a little bit."

But the mayor also was bothered by the circulation of what he deemed an out-of-context picture of him dressed in festive Irish attire — a kilt, plaid cap and oversized leprechaun bow tie. He asserts that detractors e-mailed the picture around to make him appear insensitive to the situation.

"Obviously the controversy comes from the fact that you've got the one guy snapping pictures for St. Patty's Day, and [dressing up is] what we do on that day," Monahan said. "It doesn't fit with the seriousness of the matter, and I understand that."


Three other members of the five-member City Council — Wendy Leece, Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger — showed up at 77 Fair Drive after Huy Pham, 29, committed suicide. The fifth councilman, Eric Bever, was reportedly home sick.

Monahan's detractors say that even though being mayor of Costa Mesa is a part-time job, as the boss of the city he should have been there to console employees after learning of Pham's death.

"That's the time leadership is needed," said Jennifer Muir, spokeswoman for the Orange County Employees Assn., which represents some of the Costa Mesa workers. "That's why what Monahan was doing that day was significant. He should've been there for the employees of the city and the community."

Nick Berardino, general manager for OCEA, headed to Skosh Monahan's Thursday to confront the mayor. Armed with a camera, he photographed Monahan outside the bar in his Irish garb.

As media crews later descended on City Hall, Berardino waved the images on his cell phone for the cameras.

"And obviously his priority was his saloon, not the city of Costa Mesa," Berardino said Monday.

Monahan and the three other councilmen have become targets of union leaders since they voted to lay off Pham and about 200 other city workers — nearly half the workforce. The council majority has argued that the layoffs are necessary to keep the city financially solvent as it faces high pension and compensation costs.

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