KSBW editorial in support of Voices’ public records lawsuit
UPDATE: The Carmel City Council on Monday approved a new five-year contract extension to its city attorney, Glen Mozingo. The proposal by councilwomen Carolyn Hardy and Jan Reimers was originally placed on a consent agenda, which would not have required a public airing, but it was pulled for discussion on Monday.
The contract extension was approved on a 4-1 vote, with only Councilman Bobby Richards casting a no vote.
By Royal Calkins
Despite numerous unanswered questions about key portions of Carmel City Attorney Glen Mozingo’s resumé, two City Council members are proposing that he be granted a new and more expensive five-year contract.
The full council is scheduled to vote on the proposal at Monday’s council meeting, starting at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall.
The contract covers part but not all the costs of Mozingo and two deputies. As proposed by Carolyn Hardy and Jan Reimers, the monthly retainer would jump from $13,000 to $30,000 for the first 154 hours worked by City Attorney Glen Mozingo and his deputies. After a total of 154 hours, work by any of the three would be compensated at $275 an hour. The contract puts no limits on the hours.
In addition to the premium for any work beyond the first 154 hours, Mozingo’s firm would receive $275 an hour for what the contract calls “extraordinary” work. It defines that as such seemingly routine things as drafting or reading of complex legal documents, prosecuting violations of the city code, representing the city on writs and other motions, and overseeing the work of other lawyers or insurance or risk managers.
The initial one-year contract, which expired July 1, was based on a projection of Mozingo performing about 80 hours of legal work each month. Mozingo later hired two deputies, Jon Giffen and former Councilman Gerard Rose, to help handle the workload that previously had been handled by one part-time attorney, Don Freeman, and the workload apparently expanded dramatically.
A report from Hardy and Thiess says that when Mozingo was hired, “Expectations did not meet reality as the job required at least 60-hour weeks to address the backlog of work and meet the day-to-day demands of litigation, staff and department requests and the formation of a functional and responsive City Attorney’s Office.”
The retainer would cost the city at least $1.8 million over the life of the contract — not including extra fees for hours beyond 154 in a month, the cost of “extraordinary” work and automatic cost-of-living increases.
There apparently has been no public discussion of the matter as it was placed on the consent agenda for Monday’s meeting late last week. Items on the consent agenda are automatically approved unless a council member asks that they be placed on the regular agenda for discussion. Based on social media chatter over the weekend, it appears certain that members of the public will ask that it be taken off the consent calendar in order to be discussed in open session. Former Mayor Sue McCloud said she expects it to be taken off the consent agenda.
(The Carmel Pine Cone, which has failed to report on continuing controversy over Mozingo’s hiring, previewed Monday’s meeting in Friday’s edition but failed to mention the attorney contract.)
After Mozingo’s hiring, Hardy proposed during city budget hearings in the spring that the budget for his office be raised by 65 percent, to $760,000 annually, to reflect the growing caseload. The proposal received no public support, however, and was dropped. Hardy had served on the committee that recommended Mozingo’s hiring. She says she also negotiated his initial contract and vetted his background.
Mozingo, 71, was hired a year ago, five years after retiring from private practice in Orange County. He had maintained a weekend home in Carmel for years and had married a former assistant city administrator, Heidi Burch. He also had been highly active in the successful mayoral campaign of Steve Dallas.
In Orange County, he had specialized in estate planning and business formation but wrote in his resumé that he also had handled “hundreds” of trials including 138 jury trials, losing just two. Electronic court records are notoriously spotty so it is a difficult claim to assess. Still, several lawyers throughout the state say a full-time litigator would be hard-pressed to try so many cases in a lifetime and that it is hard to imagine anyone except a criminal prosecutor compiling such an excellent win-loss record.
Questions about his qualifications started surfacing a year ago after he led an internal investigation of sexual harassment allegations against Dallas. Mozingo announced that Dallas essentially had been vindicated. Several city residents complained, however, that the attorney had misled them about the scope of the inquiry and mischaracterized various complaints against the mayor.
Scrutiny of Mozingo’s resumé began with Voices of Monterey Bay and the Monterey County Weekly reporting about his false claim that he had received the highly prestigious Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award granted by Congress. He also claimed, accurately, that he had won another Congressional award, one that the Republican Party grants to campaign contributors. He has made contributions to a GOP congressional candidate, Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign and the Republican Central Committee but denies having contributed to Republican candidates before receiving the honor. The resumé does not say when he received the award.
Voices later reported on several other problems with Mozingo’s resumé. Among other things, he claims to have worked eight years as special counsel to the late Daryl Gates while he was police chief in Los Angeles. Attorneys for Gates and the city as well as Gates’s family dispute Mozingo’s claim and city records contain no evidence that he was ever paid.
Several items listed on Mozingo’s resumé could be true but have proved impossible to verify without additional detail from Mozingo. He has declined to answer any questions about the document or to provide any substantiation of his claim to be a member of the British bar or to have received an advanced degree from Oxford. Officials of the bar and Oxford say they can find no record of Mozingo.
Mozingo also said in his application to the city that he had never been sued for malpractice, even though Voices determined that he had been sued twice. He prevailed in one case and settled the other out of court, according to Orange County court records.
In court papers, Deputy City Attorney Rose says the question put to Mozingo about malpractice cases was whether he had ever lost a malpractice case. The city’s application paperwork makes no such distinction.
The court papers stem from a public records lawsuit that this writer and a group called Transparency in Government has filed against the city for failing to turn over documents related to his hiring. After several Voices reports about the resumé, the City Council met privately with Mozingo, who purportedly displayed various documents supporting accuracy of his resumé as well as various items not mentioned in the resumé, such as a letter of commendation from a Supreme Court justice.
Following that session, the council said it had found the resumé to be 100 percent accurate but declined to make any of the paperwork public or to explain what they might have seen to support his claims that he had received an award he has not received and had not been sued for malpractice.
Neil Shapiro, who represents this writer, and other First Amendment specialists say documents shown to a California governing body in support of a decision are public record. A hearing on that lawsuit is scheduled for Sept. 7.
In an email to Hardy over the weekend, Voices asked her to expand on her rationale for the current proposal. She responded with an email to Shapiro arguing that as a party to litigation with the city, this writer is somehow barred from communicating with council members. Shapiro advised her that that is not the case.
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