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Costa Mesa rejects plaque for worker who jumped from City Hall

May 24, 2012 |  1:25 pm

Huy Pham memorial

City leaders in Costa Mesa have rejected a proposal to place a memorial plaque at City Hall for a maintenance worker who jumped to his death after learning he’d be receiving a layoff notice as part of a budget-tightening effort.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Commission voted against accepting a plaque in memory of Huy Pham, 29, who died after leaping from the roof of the five-story building in 2011.

The plaque would have been placed near a tree that was planted in Pham's honor at City Hall.

"I just feel that this is a very touchy subject," said Commissioner Ethan Temianka. "I think there is a lot of people who also deserve recognition, and I will not be supporting this."

At the time of Pham’s death, the city had sent layoff notices to nearly half of its employees in a dramatic austerity program that was sharply criticized by union leaders, and left city employees stunned.

Costa Mesa City Employees Assn. President Helen Nenadal wrote a letter to the commission offering to donate the plaque on behalf of association members.

"Installing this plaque in honor of Huy's life is an important part of the healing process for his co-workers, friends and the community," Nenadal said. "Instead of remembering the tragedy of Huy's death when they come to City Hall, there will be a place where everyone can reflect on his life."

Nenadal said she was disappointed by the commission's decision.

Pham, who lived in Fountain Valley, worked for the city for more than four years. At the time of his suicide, he was on medical leave with a broken ankle. He hadn't yet received a pink slip, but was on the city's list to get one.

His city personnel file, released after his death, said he had been struggling with emotional problems and was advised to receive counseling. The county coroner's toxicology report indicated that Pham had cocaine in his system at the time of his death.

Pham's personnel file also noted that in his regular performance reviews, he was noted for his superior workmanship and attention to detail. He was also remembered by his colleagues as a hard worker.


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Photo: Officer Cristina Goodfellow of the Costa Mesa Police Department kneels beside a memorial for city maintenance worker Huy Pham at Costa Mesa City Hall in 2011. Credit: Kent Treptow / Times Community News