Carmel In Crisis
It’s time to face the facts—and for Guillen to go.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
What did Carmel city officials know about the Rich Guillen scandal, and when did they know it?
The answers to those questions appear depressingly clear.
The mayor and city councilmembers knew in May 2008 about the allegations of former Human Resources Manager Jane Miller that City Administrator Guillen sexually harassed her and eliminated her position when she failed to respond to his advances, as laid out in the lawsuit lodged by Miller’s attorney, Michael Stamp.
Now that the city’s insurance company has forked over $600,000 to settle Miller’s claim, the question is, what are officials going to do about it?
So far, not much.
Councilmembers emerged from a closed-door meeting about Guillen’s performance on Aug. 24 only to announce that yet another meeting will be held on the subject in mid-September.
Of course, even the Aug. 24 meeting would not have taken place without City Councilman Jason Burnett’s explicit request to continue the discussion of the Guillen matter.
The continuing pattern of evasion and denial should come as no surprise, given Mayor Sue McCloud’s dismal record of stonewalling on the subject, and the intransigence of her supporters on the council.
The way the wild bunch at the helm of this outwardly peaceful community is mishandling both the walkup to, and the aftermath of, the Guillen scandal has been a dispiriting exercise in civic incompetence.
But the claim by some of McCloud’s supporters that Miller may have somehow been at fault, or simply seeking economic recompense, is an example of blaming the victim in the spirit of the Anita Hill hearings.
While it’s tempting to write the whole episode off as the Peyton Place-like drama of a privileged community, its consequences are serious. And Carmel’s saga remains a story without an end.
McCloud’s mayoral challenger, Adam Moniz, deserves credit for raising issues that he’s been right about all along.
At this point, Carmel residents’ outrage about the scandal makes Guillen’s eventual termination seem inevitable. Although his fate is in the City Council’s (so far forgiving) hands, talk of recall is in the air, and understandably so.
Politicians should be held accountable for their errors of judgment. It’s particularly egregious that the councilmembers – with the notable exception of Burnett – do not seem to believe in taking public responsibility for their mistakes.
The foot-dragging has gone on far too long, both in the handling of the Miller matter when it first came to the council’s attention, and in the reluctant attempts to deal with it now.
The people of Carmel – and, of course, Jane Miller – deserve much better from their public servants. One hopes they will get better representation from the current council, or elect new representatives.
Basic issues of governance, ethics and the appropriate response to long-term patterns of inappropriate behavior are at stake.
The laws that protect against sexual harassment are there for good reason. Simply put, there’s a clear power differential between a manager and an employee. If that manager begins leveraging that power for his (or her) own personal pleasure, it’s not only ethically wrong, it’s a form of blackmail.
Any manager, particularly in government, ought to have a clear understanding of sexual harassment and the risks it poses to an employer, as well as to his or her own career. There is no gray area here.
Responsible corporations have zero-tolerance harassment policies. The same ought to be true, of course, in every city hall. Which makes it all the more inexplicable that Guillen has not been dismissed. Or that McCloud, a lifelong government employee herself who surely understands the law, has not pushed to immediately dismiss her city administrator and move on.
Amazingly, she’s done the opposite. Her tone about this saga has been abrupt, harsh and defensive, and she has resisted calls for transparency from the public and the media.
It’s time for McCloud and the City Council to replace Guillen. If that doesn’t happen soon, the citizens of Carmel need to replace McCloud and other councilmembers who have a role in this inept leadership.
McCloud has stated that this is her last term and she has less than two years to serve. Without quick, decisive and responsible leadership, she will be remembered not for her accomplishments, but for her neglect, abuse and disregard of the public’s best interest in this matter.
What a shame – not just for Sue McCloud, but for the city she represents.