By Royal Calkins
When Voices asked the city of Carmel for sexual harassment complaints leveled against Mayor Steve Dallas last year, we were told they could not be made public because they involved potential litigation.
But when Voices asked the city for a copy of a recent complaint against Councilman Bobby Richards, the subject of a closed-door council meeting because it involved potential litigation, the response was decidedly different. Less than a week after we filed a public records act request for the complaint against Richards, the city handed it over Wednesday without any kind of a fuss.
It involves an allegation from local attorney Hugo Gerstl on behalf of businessman and Dallas friend Brent Sepulvedo. It boils down to a complaint that Richards may have violated the city’s short-term rental ordinance when he rented a room in his house to Sepulvedo two years ago. The letter doesn’t mention that Richards agreed to let Sepulvedo use the room at the request of Dallas, but it does get into all sorts of other stuff, including Gerstl’s contention that Richards defamed Sepulvedo. Gerstl’s letter is attached below.
It amounts to an attack on Richards, and I can only presume that the city opted to make it public because Richards has become the council dissident in general,and because he cast the one dissenting vote last month when the City Council granted City Attorney Glen Mozingo a five-year extension on his contract. Mozingo’s the guy who decides when something is or is not public record.
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In case you’ve been out of town, here’s some background. Mozingo’s the fellow who got the city attorney job last year despite a resume’ containing several inaccuracies and exaggerations. Voices has written a considerable amount about all that.
In response to the articles, the City Council met with Mozingo in closed session, looked over some paperwork he provided about his various awards and commendations, and declared his resumé to be 100 percent accurate. That was the finding even though he claims to have won an important Congressional award that he did not win, and claimed a considerable amount of municipal and courtroom litigation that isn’t supported by court records. He also wrote that he had never been sued for malpractice although he has — twice, according to Orange County court records. There are other examples.
Voices naturally requested access to the items Mozingo shared with the council. The reply: no way. Mozingo’s office cited attorney-client privilege, various Public Records Act exemptions, the Brown Act and Mozingo’s privacy rights. So we went to court and last week Judge Robert O’Farrell said we were right and the city was wrong. Hand over the paperwork, he told the city. The council has scheduled a special meeting for Wednesday to decide whether to cough it up or appeal to a higher court.
Against that backdrop, Mozingo chose prior to a council meeting last week to insert an agenda item saying one item for discussion involved potential litigation and allegations of actionable behavior against an unidentified councilman. Seldom or perhaps never do agenda items get that specific when a city official is the target. Dallas told the world it wasn’t him and, since the other three council members are women, all eyes were on Richards.
Then, as if Mozingo’s finger-pointing wasn’t clear enough, he asked Richards and only Richards during the open portion of the meeting how he would like to proceed with the matter, publicly or privately. Richards, caught off guard, said he wanted time to think it over.
The council chose to fight the Voices’ public records lawsuit at Mozingo’s request. He has contended it is a matter of principle, a matter of protecting a legislative body’s deliberative processes, but it seems clear to a growing number of observers that it’s mostly about protecting himself. In contrast, when it comes to protecting one of the council members he represents, Mozingo is suddenly all about transparency.
Reached at work Wednesday, Richards said he could not comment on a closed-session item.
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