By Royal Calkins
The most interesting thing about most requests for governmental public records is the result, the materials the agency turns over to journalists or other inquisitive folks. But in one recent set of highly unusual public records requests in Carmel, the only intrigue came from the requests themselves.
It is a case of a former member of the Carmel City Council digging into the telephone and email records of a current council member in an apparent effort to expose him as media-friendly during the city attorney controversy that dominated city politics in 2018. Thus far, the continuing effort has been a flop.
The requests came from Carolyn Hardy, who lost her bid for a second council term last November, largely because of the key role she played in the hiring of Glen Mozingo, since departed, as the city’s chief legal adviser. Her target — Councilman Bobby Richards, a popular hotel manager who attracted Hardy’s wrath because he wouldn’t join her in supporting Mozingo after it became apparent that much of his application for the job had been fabricated or exaggerated.
Hardy vigorously supported Mozingo before and after Voices of Monterey Bay revealed numerous significant inaccuracies in his resumé. She pushed hard for his hiring, negotiated his contract and claimed to have researched his background, failing, however, to notice several false claims about his education, work history and awards.
Even after several articles about those problems, Hardy successfully pressed to extend Mozingo’s contract and hire two assistant city attorneys to help him handle a workload that previously had required no more than one part-time lawyer.
For much of his time in office, Mozingo enjoyed support from the entire five-person council. But as the Voices articles piled up and the evidence against Mozingo became impossible to ignore, Richards began questioning the arrangement and wondering aloud what the city was getting for its rising legal costs.
Richards was the lone wolf on the issue until last November’s election, when Hardy and then-Mayor Steve Dallas were voted out. Two members, Jan Reimers and Carrie Thies, continue to defend Mozingo but the council majority shifted. Joining Richards were two men who had been critical of Mozingo, Jeff Baron and Mayor Dave Potter.
Following a closed-door meeting with the reformulated council in December, Mozingo opted to call it quits, leaving the city’s legal work in the hands of his former assistants for now.
Hardy wouldn’t comment on what she had hoped to turn up with the public record requests. Richards said he was “surprised and disappointed” by her inquiry and concerned about the cost in staff time and legal expenses.
“We have far better things to spend money on than a fruitless fishing expedition,” he said.
Following her election defeat, Hardy had seemed to be moving on. At one point, she posted on Facebook, “I have learned the key to happiness. Stay away from assholes.”
One of the public records requests she filed last month asked for any written communications involving Richards over the past several months regarding the city attorney or any council members past or present. The second one sought records for any phone that Richards had used “for public business” over the previous year. The third asked for any electronic communications with Royal Calkins, which would be me, as well as anyone else who has written for Voices of Monterey Bay, and recently retired attorney Neil Shapiro. Shapiro represented Voices during a successful public records lawsuit against the city during Mozingo’s protracted effort to keep his job.
In response to Hardy’s request for phone records, the city provided copies of some of Richards’ telephone bills but he is still assembling others. The city redacted records of his long distance calls but provided some detail about local calls. My numbers were not among those and neither were Shapiro’s.
Nothing in the public records given to Hardy provides any evidence of Richards violating any confidences or disclosing any private information from council executive sessions, the likely target of Hardy’s hunt. Hardy did dig out a few interesting tidbits, though. For instance, an email in which Richards informed Mayor Potter that he was not comfortable signing off on Mozingo’s invoice for last December.
“The number reflects 45-hour work weeks but he was out of town the first of the month,” Richards wrote. “I am having trouble understanding how all of these hours could be accrued.”
My name appears in the email records a couple times. Early last year, I asked Richards if the council had taken up the issue of Mozingo’s resumé or knew when it might. Richards replied, ‘I received your email. I will be working on answers. At this point I apologize that I have no new information.”
On another day, I emailed Richards to ask if the city planned to have another attorney handle public records requests involving Mozingo’s resumé or continue letting Mozingo handle the matter despite the obvious conflict of interest. There was no response.
In December, when the council was preparing to hold the closed-door meeting that led to Mozingo’s departure. I asked Richards and other city officials if they thought there was much chance of any public announcement at the end of the meeting. Richards replied with a simple “yes.” Others suggested it would be a good idea for me to be present when the council came out of the executive session. They were right.
Perhaps the most interesting email provided to Hardy involved an exchange between Richards and Council Member Theis. It pertained to discussions about how the council would recognize Hardy and Dallas as they left office and what Richards’ role might be in any ceremony.
“Maybe you could make some effort to see where I am coming from with these people,” Richards wrote to Theis. “Glen (Mozingo) tried to destroy me, Steve (Dallas) molested my girlfriend and Carolyn (Hardy) is so incredibly rude I’m at a loss for words. I ignore her aggressive advances and could chalk them up to her just being a social misfit. … I know she has social issues but this is a little odd.”
Assertions that Dallas had made improper advances to Richards’ girlfriend were among several allegations investigated more than a year ago by outside counsel hired and supervised by Mozingo. Dallas denied those allegations and most of the others and was exonerated by Mozingo, a key political ally throughout his council term.
The written report from that investigation has not been made public, but the council is considering requests under the Public Records Act to make it available. In an email to Mayor Potter, Richards wrote that he felt it should be released sooner rather than later.
The reference to Mozingo trying to “destroy” Richards refers to the lawyer’s heavy-handed but unsuccessful effort to disqualify Richards from some council discussions because he had once rented a room to a friend of Dallas’ without obtaining a rental permit.
Regarding that issue, I emailed Richards when the matter was cryptically placed on a council agenda.
“I know you can’t talk about the closed session but perhaps you could talk about the purported allegation,” I wrote.
Richards responded, “I am so sorry at this point I feel I shouldn’t say anything. I wish I could, however it is important I do not make a mistake and misspeak.”
By the way, in case anyone is wondering, Voices obtained Hardy’s public records requests and the city’s responses by filing a public records request.
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