UPDATED WITH CITY’S VIGOROUS RESPONSE: Voices goes to court for answers about Carmel city attorney’s specious résumé

Read the petition | Memorandum of Points and Authorities
Declaration by Gerard RoseCarmel’s point-by-point response

Additional update: Superior Court hearing on Voices’ public records lawsuit now scheduled for Sept. 7.

By Royal Calkins

If Glen Mozingo was truly qualified to be Carmel city attorney, he would have given the Carmel City Council better advice on how to respond to public records requests regarding claims in his résumé. And Voices of Monterey Bay, along with the public interest group Transparency in Government, wouldn’t be suing the city for information it refuses to divulge regarding his background.

A petition seeking a court order to make those materials public was filed Monday in Monterey County Superior Court on behalf of this writer, Royal Calkins, as a representative of Voices and the Transparency group.

After Voices published articles questioning key assertions in Mozingo’s résumé, he provided the council with explanatory materials in a closed-door meeting in June. The council later announced that it had fully exonerated him based on that information, but it denied requests from reporters and others to make those materials public — although even a casual reading of pertinent California law makes clear that they are public records. (See earlier articles here and here.)

In the résumé, Mozingo claimed to have had significant experience representing several Southern California cities on various matters of municipal law. The longtime city attorney of one of those cities, Escondido, flatly disputed Mozingo’s account of work there, however, and attempts to verify his work for other cities, including Los Angeles and San Diego, proved fruitless. He claimed in the résumé to have been the lead lawyer for a Sacramento County fire district although his law partner at the time says that isn’t so.

Throughout his career, Mozingo, 71, has specialized in estate planning and business formation. If he had the significant local government experience he claims, he should have known of the landmark public records case of San Gabriel Tribune vs. the City of West Covina. In that matter, an appellate court ruled in favor of the newspaper when the city sought to keep a lid on financial information it had been temporarily provided by a garbage hauler seeking a rate increase.  Giving the material back to the contractor didn’t shield it from public disclosure, the court ruled. Other California courts have issued rulings in firm agreement, as noted in Monday’s court filing.

How the City Council could have certified Mozingo’s résumé remains a mystery because at least two of his claims, regarding a major award and malpractice accusations, simply cannot be verified. Regardless, the city says in its response to the public records petition that everything in Mozingo’s resume is correct and that Calkins is a “failed journalist” and a “documentable liar.”

The response skirts the issue of Mozingo’s claiming to have  received a prestigious U.S. Congressional Gold Medal.

“The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions,” says the legal petition by Voices and Transparency in Government, a fledgling local public interest organization. “Any recipient must garner the co-sponsorship of 290 U.S. Representatives and 67 members of the U.S. Senate to become eligible. The first recipient was George Washington in 1776. Recipients since 1900 include the Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Thomas Edison, Dr. Jonas Salk, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. Mozingo was never a recipient of this honor.”

In the city’s response, filed Tuesday by Mozingo deputy Gerard Rose, the city doesn’t mention the Congressional Gold Medal but notes instead that Mozingo had received other, lesser awards from a congressional committee.

Similarly, it isn’t clear what Mozingo could have shown the council to support his assertion that he had never been sued for malpractice. Court records show that he was sued for professional negligence by an Orange County accountant and a Bay Area horse breeder. For practical purposes, professional negligence is the equivalent of malpractice, which is the word an appellate court used to describe the allegations against Mozingo. (He prevailed in one case and settled the other out of court.)

In his application for the city position, Mozingo wrote, “I have never been the subject of a malpractice claim, complaint with the state bar or disciplinary action of any kind … .”

In his response this week, Rose wrote, “Calkins claims that Mr. Mozingo lied when he said in his résumé that he had not been sued for malpractice. But Calkins omits the fact that Mr. Mozingo’s representation about malpractice suits only concerned malpractice suits that were successfully asserted against him, his partners or his associates.”

Voices’ court filing also raises new questions about Mozingo’s legal partnerships. In his city application, Mozingo said he founded the Orange County law firm of Mozingo and Patel in 1979 and served as lead counsel though 2016. However, partner Kinnery Patel was not admitted to practice law in California until 2003. Court records also show that Mozingo at various times was a partner in other firms not mentioned in the résumé. The Mozingo and Patel website makes no mention of municipal law or other government work.

In the city’s response, Rose inexplicably wrote that the Voices petition accused Mozingo of lying about having been lead counsel. The petition, attached, makes no such suggestion.

“Petitioner Calkins is a failed journalist who has a reputation for publishing phony stories and false statements about public figures,” Rose wrote in the city’s response. “Consistent with that reputation, he has been carrying on a one-man crusade to besmirch the reputation of Glen Mozingo.”

Rose didn’t mention the Monterey County Weekly articles challenging Mozingo’s repeated assertions about winning the congressional honor that he did not receive.

Before publishing any articles about Mozingo’s résumé, Voices repeatedly sought comment from Mozingo and others, including City Administrator Chip Rerig, Mayor Steve Dallas, Mozingo’s deputies, and others. All declined to comment on his application, seemingly at Mozingo’s direction.

At Thursday’s hearing, Carmel attorney Neil Shapiro will argue on behalf of the media that the materials reviewed by the city should be made public. Shapiro is a veteran media law specialist.

In his court papers, Shapiro wrote, “There is no question that those documents were used by the council to reach its conclusion as to the ostensible accuracy of Mozingo’s representations in his RFQ (request for qualifications) response and are producible public records.  The council continues to try to shield those records from public examination — perhaps because they are embarrassing to the committee and the council as well as Mozingo — and instead embrace the classic ‘trust us’ attitude that courts routinely find wanting.”

Mozingo was hired as city attorney in July 2017 on the recommendation of two council members, Carrie Theis and Carolyn Hardy, who said she reviewed his résumé and negotiated his contract. For half-time work, he receives $156,000 annually plus $275 an hour for “extraordinary” work such as reviewing or preparing complex legal documents or appearing in court.

Mozingo is married to former Assistant City Administrator Heidi Burch. He replaced longtime City Attorney Don Freeman a year ago and soon added two assistant city attorneys, including Rose, a former Carmel council member.

The California Bar Association publishes Rules of Professional Standards that prohibit a lawyer from using “any untrue statement” in the solicitation of a client. Several Carmel residents have said they planned to file complaints about Mozingo with the bar.

Have something to say about this story? Send us a letter.

SUPPORT NONPROFIT JOURNALISM  

Royal Calkins

About Royal Calkins

Contributing writer Royal Calkins has worked for newspapers in Santa Cruz, Monterey and Fresno. For the past couple of years, he has produced a local news and commentary blog, the Monterey Bay Partisan. He can be reached at calkinsroyal@gmail.com.

7 thoughts on “UPDATED WITH CITY’S VIGOROUS RESPONSE: Voices goes to court for answers about Carmel city attorney’s specious résumé

  1. Good for you, Royal. A great piece of journalist investigation. I have previously shared my thoughts on how Camel and other cities on the Peninsula are virtually wasting public funds by the loose and lacking oversight of their contract counsels. In the case of Carmel, I not only agree with your concerns over the current counsel and his evident misrepresenting his experience, but am also concerned about the city’s refusal to provide public records. I particularly question the manner in which he was “vetted” and hired. The two councilwomen, one an attorney, obviously failed to do due diligence, and the fact that you have revealed that he is married to a former City Hall staffer, makes me think that he was hired as a favor to the staffer, or were otherwise influenced by facts not relevant to his actual background. For such a small town the size of the City of London (both one square mile), there has been a lot of very questionable actions.

  2. I have known Royal for decades and worked with him. He is a successful and accomplished (and fearless) investigative reporter and newspaper editor. He is neither a failed journalist nor a documented liar. Such a statement falsely attacking a person’s professional standing should be actionable, although in our current political climate, where the president can lie a dozen times a day without recourse (using much the same language the City of Carmel uses against Calkins), maybe not. Empty and mean-spirited ad hominem attacks are what pass for debating points these days. Thanks Carmel for continuing to lower the bar.

  3. Thank you for your diligent effort to hold local government accountable, especially in this era where our President and Commander-in-Chief lies repeatedly without shame or correction. Carmel’s City Council is causing needless problems for itself by refusing to release what should be public documents. Mozingo clearly has lied about his background. If Carmel doesn’t care about personal integrity as a qualification for their city attorney, it needs to man-up and say so instead of maligning the reputation of a well-respected and well-known journalist as Royal Calkins.

  4. Somebody needs to do a follow-up Public Records Act request seeking the documents upon which Gerard Rose bases his accusation that Royal Calkins is a “documentable liar.” Betcha none can be produced.

  5. Didn’t the City admit violating the Brown Act by changing the reason for the closed session from personnel evaluation to pending litigation?

  6. Carmel is mimicking the White House – defending itself by character assassination while providing no real facts to support their position. If Dave Potter had any (leave word out to your imagination) he would speak up and state that if he is elected none of this behind the scenes hiring, with lack of real vetting, and providing a tasty contract to the attorney who is hired. It would be an excellent issue to argue for change at the top.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *