By Royal Calkins
Carmel’s Glen Mozingo experience has been nothing less than a fiasco, but some good will come of it if the current and future city councils pay attention to the lessons it provided.
When Mozingo announced Monday that he will step down as city attorney in three months, he maintained he wasn’t fired. He is, however, leaving under as much pressure as new Mayor Dave Potter, a cagy political player, could apply. Mozingo’s decision came shortly after he learned that the council was presenting him with a list of detailed questions about the many exaggerations and fabrications on his resumé and working on changes to his contract that would make outright termination significantly easier.
Seems to me it would be a great idea for the council to do what’s needed to speed up Mozingo’s departure, but let’s start with the lessons learned so far.
The most obvious is for decision-makers not to take a job applicant’s resumé at face value. Voices spent considerable effort to determine the lengths Mozingo had taken to make himself appear qualified, but a personnel professional or maybe even a sharp intern could have figured out that something was wrong after a few hours of casual fact-checking. Mozingo was wrong for faking up his resumé. The city was just as wrong for letting him get away with it.
The only vetting of Mozingo was by council member Carolyn Hardy, whose unwavering and illogical support for the fellow led to her defeat in the November election. Hardy also led the negotiation of his initial contract and an even worse one six months later that attempted to protect him by requiring a council supermajority to fire him.
Lesson two: Don’t let the job applicant’s biggest champion negotiate the contract. Lesson three: Don’t let any member of the City Council negotiate contracts. Professionals are available.
I’m hoping the fourth lesson applies only to the Carmel council because I would like to believe that most government agencies already have this one figured out. In June, while the Carmel group was granting Mozingo an expansive new contract, over strong objections by highly credible residents, Hardy made a statement nearly as tone-deaf as anything Trump has said in the past week.
“It is important to keep in mind,” Hardy declared, “that the city attorney does not work for the public; the city attorney works for the City Council.”
While that is technically correct in one sense, it does not fully represent the city attorney’s responsibility to city government overall. It is true that the council hires and fires the attorney. The attorney reports to the council and not the city manager.
But here’s another lesson. In the filing of court papers, in speaking for the city in court or administrative proceedings, the city attorney represents the entirety of city government and is responsible for representing the interests of the city’s residents and its taxpayers, not just the council. The attorney’s job is larger than merely protecting the handful of folks who hired him.
If Hardy had a better understanding of representative government, she and council colleague Jan Reimers would not have negotiated a contract that enabled Mozingo to hire two deputies without council approval or to pay himself and his deputies virtually without limit when he deemed the work necessary.
Citing case law only tangentially on point, Mozingo had even stopped providing the council or the public with meaningful details on the costs of work performed on various legal matters. While there are times when the courts allow the costs of government-paid legal work to be shielded from public view, those occasions are limited to matters in which revelation would put one side or another at a legal disadvantage. Mozingo used this as a device to protect himself from meaningful scrutiny rather than to protect the public or the legal process. This needs to be fixed now and not after Mozingo moves along. He should be allowed no say in much of anything involving his office or anything else at City Hall.
As it stands, there is no way to accurately calculate how much Mozingo has already cost the city. There is no clear record of the checks already written and no record of make-work tasks that he and his associates performed that could more efficiently have been handled by others at City Hall with no added cost to the public. In one case, Mozingo insisted that his lawyers meet with representatives of another jurisdiction rather than allow the city staff to be involved. Think billable hours.
Remarkably, it cost the city $56,000 to defend itself in a public records lawsuit filed by Voices as part of our effort to uncover the realities behind Mozingo’s fantasy resumé. In other words, Mozingo persuaded his bosses to spend that much money to try to keep a lid on public records that helped prove that he isn’t who he said he was. That’s a conflict so rank that he should be docked for the expense.
Back to the present. While council members Reimers and Carrie Theis apparently continue to support Mozingo despite the piles of damaging evidence against him, the new council majority of Potter and council members Jeff Baron and Bobby Richards deserve commendation for turning this unpleasant page in the city’s history.
Still, rather than sitting back and congratulating themselves while they begin the search for Mozingo’s replacement, they also should be alert to ways to limit the city’s use of Mozingo’s office and to speed his departure.
Almost any employees of any kind in the private or public arenas would be terminated instantly if the bosses discovered significant errors, omissions or fabrications on their applications, yet Mozingo’s office still stands to pull in at least $150,000 and potentially much more between now and his actual departure. There should be a term for that. White privilege doesn’t cover it. Professional privilege? Big shot privilege?
The smart move, at least in my estimation, would be for the city to ask Mozingo to leave early and to wave the prospect of a fraud action over his head if he tries to consider sipping from the municipal trough.
Does the council really want its interests to be represented in court for the next three months by a man who falsely claimed never to have been sued for malpractice, who falsely claimed to have received the U.S. Congress’s highest civilian honor, who falsely claimed to have received part of his legal education from Oxford University?
I’m no lawyer, but it seems to me that his fibs could be quite a liability for the city, should he make his way into courtroom again. If the city allows Mozingo or his employees to continue going to court in its name and to obligate taxpayers to any more costs, it could be argued that it has not yet learned all there is to be learned here.
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