THE PARTISAN |
By Royal Calkins
Carmel city officials announced Wednesday that the sexual harassment investigation of Mayor Steve Dallas has resulted in a reprimand, but that wasn’t the big news of the day. Dallas had already told folks around town that he had survived the inquiry.
The more intriguing news came from Carmel City Attorney Glen Mozingo, who tossed a bombshell into a crowded City Hall: He said a small group of Carmel residents had recently paid $100 to have a man physically assault Dallas in the restroom of an area business. Mozingo said the would-be assailant grabbed the mayor’s arms but the assault was thwarted by an off-duty police officer standing nearby.
Mozingo made that announcement in the midst of his long statement detailing the sexual harassment inquiry, which left some in the crowd under the impression that the assault conspiracy was somehow linked to the investigation. Under questioning from the press, he later said it was not.
He wouldn‘t identify the people involved in the alleged plot but said it is under criminal investigation. He referred to the city having received a phone call revealing the plot but he provided no details.
The attorney said the harassment investigation did spawn another potential crime, an extortion attempt aimed at himself. He wouldn‘t provide details and said his office is continuing to investigate with an eye to turning the matter over to county prosecutors.
While Dallas has told acquaintances that he had been vindicated, other members of the council acknowledged that they were disturbed by his behavior toward women and others and that, while they didn’t rise to actionable incidents, Dallas has been told and understands that he needs to clean up his act.
Mozingo said the council, without Dallas or Councilman Bobby Richards, who was recused, met in closed session with the outside investigator and three city lawyers before voting unanimously to reprimand the mayor. The other options available were to seek his resignation, censure him or do nothing.
The investigation was set off by allegations from Kim Stemler, executive director of the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association. She alleged late last year that Dallas had repeatedly used inappropriate language around her, that he had inquired about her sex life and had leered at her suggestively while pointing out a speck on her blouse. Mozingo indicated that some of her charges were substantiated while some were not. He said the formal investigation’s only purpose was to determine whether the city had any criminal or civil liability for Dallas’ actions and it had determined that it does not.
The investigator also interviewed several other people who came forward after Stemler’s complaint was publicized, most of them to complain about bullying behavior or threats of political retaliation from the mayor. Mozingo provided varying accounts of the number of complainants and the number of people interviewed. He would not provide the press with copies of his lengthy statement and said the investigative report would remain confidential.
Early in his presentation, Mozingo listed several of the complaints that had been aired against Dallas, making the point that they were largely frivolous. He was asked if he could provide more examples of the more serious allegations. He declined.
Stemler made a brief appearance at the session, which was billed as a public press conference. She complained that when she originally approached the city with her account, she was assured of confidentiality but someone at city hall apparently leaked her name. Mozingo countered by noting that Stemler had alerted the board of the vintner’s group, and the leak likely came from that direction.
Voices was the first news outlet to identify Stemler and her role, with her permission. Voices learned of the matter only after KSBW-TV had begun asking questions and attempting to get a response from Dallas.
After the event, Stemler told Voices, “From the beginning, I was clear that this was never about me versus the mayor. I had no interest in it being public or in any litigation at all. It’s about a pattern of unacceptable behavior that doesn’t belong in how this great city conducts its business and treats the people it does business with.”
Several members of the public told the council Wednesday that the city had caused confusion by initially indicating that the investigation would cover matters other than sexual harassment but subsequently limiting it to sexual harassment despite having interviewed several complainants whose issues were unrelated to sexual harassment. Mozingo denied that city officials had played any role in the confusion.
Council members Jan Reimer, Carrie Theiss and Carolyn Hardy all said that the situation had put a strain on all involved and that they were hopeful that some of the wounds would heal quickly. Thiess mentioned that she had previously counseled Dallas about his style but Hardy said she had never seen Dallas acting unprofessionally.
“Steve would never threaten anyone,” she said, sparking a burst of laughter from throughout the room.
Calkins writes a weekly column focusing on local politics and public affairs. Reader comments are encouraged (see below). The writer also welcomes communications at firstname.lastname@example.org.