Mayor Steve Dallas did not engage in sexual harassment. Boorish and unprofessional behavior, yes, but nothing that rises to a level of exposing the city to any civil or criminal liability.
That was the pronouncement by Carmel City Attorney Glen Mozingo that came out of a nearly two-hour public meeting at Carmel City Hall on Wednesday, March 7, in the wake of a three-month investigation triggered by allegations by Kim Stemler, executive director of the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association in late November.
Three members of the City Council—Mayor Pro Tem Carrie Theis and councilmembers Carolyn Hardy and Jan Reimers, all wearing red jackets—announced in a joint statement that they had reprimanded Dallas in closed session.
(Councilmember Bobby Richards recused himself from the proceedings.)
They asked Dallas for three things moving forward:
“Demonstrate respect for and sensitivity of others, with an understanding and appreciation of appropriate boundaries.
Work on self-awareness of how his actions and words affect other people.
Comport himself in a professional manner at all times that dignifies the office he holds.
And we have been advised by the mayor that he desires to issue a formal public apology for inappropriate and unprofessional behavior,” Theis read from their statement.
Dallas did not respond to a text or a phone call asking for immediate comment. Theis expects him to issue a public apology at the upcoming April 3 City Council meeting.
“No person is all one thing—good or bad. We do not intend to make this a public flogging because every person in this room has some personal failing or character flaw,” Theis read, looking very tired and at times fighting back tears.
All three made pleas to residents that they all put the matter behind them, “set aside the vitriol” and “mend the divisiveness.”
The three councilmembers met in closed session to discuss the investigation findings for 10-12 hours over three sessions from March 2-6. Resignation was one option they discussed, and the group decided on a reprimand.
Mozingo said the scope of the investigation was allegations of sexual harassment. The outside investigator did not consider allegations that involved other complaints, like those of restaurant owners David Fink and Rich Pepe who say that Dallas threatened to block approval of future development projects.
The investigator also rejected a claim that Dallas mistreated a renter by looking in her window, which was part of the original investigation announcement on Jan. 9 by Mozingo at a city council meeting. The investigator deemed the allegation not to be credible.
In all, six people with 21 allegations were considered within the scope of the investigation. The investigator spoke to 22 witnesses, Mozingo said.
Stemler announced last month she had heard from at least 57 people who said they had complaints but were frightened to come forward.
The meeting included a dramatic announcement: That Dallas had at one point been the victim of a conspiracy to assault him.
Mozingo said that a witness told them that a group of people had conspired to hire someone from Salinas for $100 to show up to a bar in Carmel where Dallas was present.
The goal was to start a fight with the mayor to video it and broadcast it as a barroom brawl.
He said the paid man swung at Dallas, and Dallas swung to protect himself, and a retired police officer in the bar came to Dallas’ aid and escorted him out of the bar.
Mozingo said the matter is under investigation, and could be sent to the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office at a later date. (Rather than contract that out as the city did with the sexual harassment investigation, the city attorney’s office is conducting that investigation internally.)
Mozingo also said there was no truth to rumors that the city previously investigated Dallas for an earlier complaint. He acknowledged a complaint by someone in April 2017, but said that nothing came of it.
At one point, after Pepe asked whether anyone in the city had ever talked to Dallas about his behavior before, Theis said she had. “I have talked to him about his behavior,” she said.
It was an extraordinary public hearing, billed as a press conference, but open to any member of the public to ask questions. It yielded many dramatic moments.
A few got a reaction from the audience. Asked if since the city only considered sexual harassment complaints, where could those with complaints of threatening behavior go, Mozingo gave two word answer that drew breath from the audience: “Their lawyer.”
Hardy made a remark that triggered derisive laughter from the crowd.
“I don’t take all of the accusations seriously. As to some of the sources I think some of this is being ginned up as a political agenda, and I just don’t think that the mayor is of the kind to threaten anybody,” she said.
“Are you for real?” one person in the audience asked, as Theis banged a gavel to restore order.
It was then Pepe approached the podium, clearly agitated, asking “So you’re calling me a liar?” Carmel Police Chief Paul Tomasi touched his shoulder and asked him to settle down.
Stemler also approached the podium, to some applause from audience members. She told Mozingo that she trusted him to keep her original complaints quiet, and asked who leaked her information to the press in December.
Theis answered that she did not know who leaked the information and Reimers suggested that maybe one of the wine association’s board members was to blame.
The total cost of the investigation is yet to be determined, but Mozingo said, “It will be far in excess of $25,000.”
The city also hired two additional attorneys—Assistant City Attorney Jon Giffen, and Deputy City Attorney Gerard Rose—to help manage the workload. Both of them made brief remarks about the investigator’s findings, noting that even those that were substantiated did not constitute violations of the law, but simply unsavory behavior.
Some members of the public were supportive of the idea of moving on and leaving the investigation behind. "We've got two very powerful and expensive attorneys sitting here without saying a word,” said former Carmel mayor Ken White. “My suggestion is, we go to lunch."
At the end of the session, the three councilmembers read their own personal statements, with an emphasis on moving forward.
Reimers asked the community to “not look back,” but only move forward.
Hardy took umbrage over accusations that Dallas had threatened to block projects. He only has one vote, she said, and she was offended by the implication that the rest of the council were “weak minded.” She said it insulted their integrity as women capable of making independent decisions.
“The rhetoric is reaching outrageous dangerous levels and people are tired of it,” Hardy said.
Theis, in tears, said, “It really saddens me that this beautiful village in a forest by the sea is in such turmoil.”
Editor Sara Rubin contributed to this report.