Former Carmel Mayor Steve Dallas

Former Carmel Mayor Steve Dallas.

The administration of former Carmel Mayor Steve Dallas was consumed by a question that divided Carmelites: Did Dallas sexually harass women and physically threaten several people, or was he just a bully?

The city hired a third-party investigator, Irma Rodriguez Moisa of the law firm Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, to answer that question. Moisa completed her report and turned it over to then-city attorney Glen Mozingo, and three members of the former council—Carolyn Hardy, Carrie Theis and Jan Reimers—issued their take in a heated public meeting in March 2018. Dallas had conducted himself inappropriately but not illegally, they concluded, and they asked him to apologize, but not to resign.

The investigative report has remained hidden from public view since it was created, despite multiple California Public Records Act requests from the Weekly as well as other media outlets. Carmel City Council finally reversed course on May 7; on June 20, over a year after the report was completed, it was released to the public. The public version has been redacted to protect the identities of subjects who Moisa interviewed, with names and addresses and other identifying information blacked out.

The report confirms many rumors that have swirled in Carmel for more than a year, and some of the accounts—including those by anonymous subjects, who spoke to the investigator only by phone—have also been provided to the Weekly. Those subjects have not been willing to be identified in print or to reveal themselves to the investigator, citing a fear of retribution.

The report shows that Moisa interviewed Dallas twice in person, on January 11 and Jan. 26, last year, and again by phone on Feb. 16. It also details interviewing at least five people described as friends of Dallas. (The 120-page report is viewable as a PDF at the bottom of this post.)

Dallas himself confirmed some of the allegations against him, but Moisa generally agreed that even vulgar remarks were not intended in a sexual way. Moisa did not sustain some of the most egregious allegations, such as physically confronting a man at a Carmel restaurant and pinning him against the bar.

Moisa found Dallas’ testimony credible, but also described him in terms that explain how City Council arrived at their determination. “Mr. Dallas presents as a large personality with a booming voice and strong personality,” Moisa wrote. “Other witnesses testified to not liking him or his personality and that they believed he was a bully.

“Mr. Dallas does not appear to appreciate how he is perceived by others as he admits he does not understand why some of his behavior could be received as offensive. Therefore, Mr. Dallas may not be the best observer of events. Based on the totality of these factors, the investigator found Mr. Dallas credible.”

In all, Moisa sustained four allegations, partially sustained three, and labeled 12 as “non sustained.”

Her interviews ranged widely in the topics they covered. One subject, whose name in the report is redacted but whose identity long ago was made public, was Kim Stemler, who runs the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association.

Dallas corroborated some of the specific remarks—an off-color joke introducing her to a friend he described as a “fluffer,” and noting something was on her blouse but that he couldn’t reach over and remove it for her. He told Moisa that he sees himself as a matchmaker, and that he would regularly ask Stemler if she was single.

“He denied ever asking her, ‘How’s your sex life?’ He said he specifically recalled on one occasion over a year ago that he asked her, ‘How’s your love life?’” according to the report. “He asked her this question because of prior conversations with her about her wanting him to find her a date.”

Moisa partially sustained Stemler’s allegations. For example, she sustained that Dallas made the comment, “You have something on your chest. I would wipe it off, but I can’t do that.” Moisa would not sustain that he did so while leering at Stemler’s chest.

Moisa also did not sustain Stemler’s charge that Dallas engaged in intimidating behavior toward her on Nov. 6, 2017, regarding a council discussion over the need for barricades at a wine event. Stemler told the investigator that “Mr. Dallas is a big man and he stood over me” when he allegedly was yelling at her about the council discussion. Dallas denied yelling or being rude to her.

One of her interview subjects who is identified by name is Carmel City Councilmember Bobby Richards, whose girlfriend (whose name is redacted, and is described as a “reluctant witness”) was also interviewed. Because Richards was a witness, he recused himself from the 2018 discussion that left just three councilmembers to interpret the report, as well as any later council discussions on the matter.

Moisa sustained findings that Dallas made a sexual remark to Richards’ girlfriend. She recalled that around July Fourth 2016, Dallas and Richards were arguing over an issue regarding the Concours d’Elegance. Richards walked away, and the woman claims Dallas approached her and said, “Would you please talk to your boyfriend and give him a blow job so that you can get him to vote my way?”

The woman told Moisa she was surprised and laughed it off, and that she did not know how to deal with it. She thought it was “weird” and shrugged it off as Dallas being “just Steve.” She said she told Richards later that night, but under questioning by Moisa, Richards said he couldn’t recall that; his first recollection of her telling him about that encounter was more than a year later, in December 2017, at which time he reported it to the city human relations director and the city attorney.

Dallas told Moisa he did not use the words “blow job.” He recalled an interaction around Memorial Day, when he wanted Richards’ support for a budget decision. He claims he told the woman, “Make sure, we got to keep Bobby happy now.”

Moisa concluded that Richards and his girlfriend “are inclined to read negative intentions into his conduct and to embellish on his conduct. Therefore a comment about ‘keeping Bobby happy’ would have been construed to have sexual connotations.”

Moisa further writes that Dallas’ explanation for the comment “does not make sense…it appears, again, that Mr. Dallas does not have awareness about how his comments may be interpreted.”

The investigator partially sustained another finding into a complaint by the same woman, that Dallas came up behind her while she was seated at a restaurant in June 2017, rubbed her shoulders with his hands and said, “Oh, you’re creamy.” Dallas agreed he put his fingertips on top of her shoulders and stated, “Boy, your skin is really soft.”

 

Moisa again noted Dallas’ “lack of self-awareness about how his conduct is perceived by others.” She wrote that touching the woman’s bare shoulders and commenting on her soft skin “would reasonably cause (the woman) to be uncomfortable.”

In her assessment of Richards’ credibility, Moisa noted that he cut off social contact with Dallas in August 2016, and determined his ability to recollect specific dates and events was weak. “Based on the totality of the circumstances, the investigator has not credited Mr. Richards’ independent observations and only credited his testimony if corroborated by others,” Moisa wrote.

Moisa also conducted interviews with subjects whose complaints she determined were not relevant to the investigation. Many of the subjects are identified as John Doe or Jane Doe, because they chose to remain anonymous; anonymity counted against their credibility in Moisa’s assessment of their allegations.

Moisa’s report states that she spoke to those with complaints from current and former tenants living in properties owned by Dallas or his mother and other residents of Carmel that were not of a sexual nature, but that because the allegations “had no connection with his role as mayor…no findings will be made as to these complaints.” Eight interviews are attached as Appendix B to the report.

One of those interviews is related to Dallas in his role as mayor, however. It involves restaurant owner (and one-time mayoral candidate) Rich Pepe, who told the same story on the record to the Weekly in 2018. Pepe relayed that after he spoke up at a business roundtable meeting about what people were saying about Dallas’ behavior around town, Dallas called the next day screaming at Pepe, accusing him of bad mouthing him.

“Dallas said if this type of talk continues (Pepe) won’t get anything else in town,” the report states.

On another occasion, Dallas allegedly said to Pepe by phone, “You guys have gotta shut up. If you don’t stop talking about me, you will never get another building or tasting room in town…”

Pepe’s complaint to the investigator ends with, “(Pepe) has definitely seen Dallas flirting with women, but does not believe that constitutes the level of sexual abuse.”

Another person who complained, but whose allegations are not included in Moisa’s findings, is a contractor who says Dallas never paid him for installing a roof on one of Dallas’ properties.

The contractor, who also spoke to the Weekly, says Dallas violently chest-bumped him in October 2014 but police would not take a report. “Dallas told (the contractor) to finish the house or he’d tear off his neck and shit down his throat,” the report states.

The report confirms one rumor that had been circling around the small town, but which the city refused to confirm for months. Moisa’s report states that a previous investigation based on a different complaint was opened in April 2017.

A woman called the city to complain that Dallas had “engaged in verbal harassment” at Barmel on March 31. Dallas told the investigator that his recollection was that the woman and her male guest were bothered by his question of who they were and where they lived. His account is that she got upset after he disagreed with her about living within the Carmel city limits. He said she screamed, “You’re rude!” as she left the bar.

The investigator states that the woman never returned the investigator’s calls. That case was closed.

Moisa’s report states that Carmel’s harassment prevention policy applies to elected officials as well as appointed officers and employees, but does not include behavior toward a member of the public, which is consistent with state law.

“Here the mayor’s purported conduct occurred in the capacity of his role as owner of a property management company, or customer of contracting services, or while in conversations with others in public events or private establishments,” she wrote. “The investigator does appreciate that Mr. Dallas is always wearing the ‘Mayor’s hat’ when he is socializing around town. However, there is no allegation that any of the alleged conduct occurred in the furtherance of city business.”

The Weekly reached out to Dallas seeking comment, but as of Thursday afternoon had not received a response.

Dallas ran unsuccessfully for re-election in 2018. Richards, who remains on council, says, “I’m looking forward to us moving beyond this report."

 

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Pam Marino joined the Monterey County Weekly in November 2016. She covers the communities of Carmel, Pacific Grove, Del Rey Oaks, Pebble Beach and North County. She also covers tourism, health, housing and homelessness, business and agriculture.

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(1) comment

Kristina Brown

“...or is he just a bully?” Just a bully? Do we consider bullying okay now?

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