Commissioners reject plaque for Pham

A request to place a memorial at Costa Mesa City Hall where a city maintenance worker jumped to his death was denied Wednesday.

The Parks and Recreation Commission voted 4 to 1 against accepting a plaque in memory of Huy Pham, 29, who jumped off the roof of the five-story building on Fair Drive on March 17, 2011. He was slated to be one of many city employees receiving layoff notices.

Commissioner Dan Vozenilek dissented. Commissioner Dean Abernathy was absent.

The plaque would have been placed with the tree 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."

Costa Mesa City Employees Assn. President Helen Nenadal wrote a letter to the commission offering the donation on behalf of the association's members. She asked the commission at the meeting to approve it.

"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," she 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 very disappointed by the commission's decision. She said she has no plans at this time to appeal.

The plaque would have been the second in the city honoring Pham. The commission already approved the planting of a tree and placement of a memorial plaque at Estancia Park.

The City Hall plaque would have featured his photograph and the words: "In memory of and dedication to Huy Pham for his years of service and dedication to the city of Costa Mesa. Sadly missed, never to be forgotten. June 18, 1981— March 17, 2011."

Pham, who lived in Fountain Valley, worked for the city for more than four years. On the day he committed suicide, he was off the job 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. His colleagues also remembered him as a hard worker.

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