The #MeToo movement has come to quaint Carmel-by-the-Sea, with city officials investigating allegations of sexual harassment by the top elected official: Mayor Steve Dallas.
Kim Stemler, executive director of the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association, says she has endured "pervasive sexualization" in the course of working with Dallas, and the national movement to bring awareness to the widespread problem prompted her to speak up.
"I was done, fed up," Stemler says. "It’s been years of being treated this way."
As director of MCVGA, Stemler says her work requires her to attend a number of city functions that the mayor also attends. (Dallas was elected as mayor in 2016, and to City Council in 2014, when Stemler says the inappropriate behavior started.) She describes being at one evening event at the Sunset Center during the Carmel International Film Festival, mingling with Dallas, when he noticed something on her blouse and leered at her chest. "He said, 'I would get it off, but I can’t do that,'" Stemler says. "He said it in such a way that I felt slimy."
In the same evening, she adds, he asked her, "How’s your sex life?" At the same event, she says, he introduced a friend of his as a "fluffer," referring to a person employed to keep porn actors aroused while on set. On another occasion—and she says there are about eight to 10 per year that they each attend in their official capacity, although he did not make the comments at every event—"he asked if I’m going to do a booty call."
"Nobody else talks to me that way," Stemler says.
In late November, Stemler was moved to do something about it, and says she complained to City Administrator Chip Rerig. "'Me Too' did empower me, and made me realize I didn’t have to put up with it," she says.
She notes that she’s proceeding as an individual, not representing MCVGA—though she has informed her board, and they were supportive of her contacting the city.
Dallas did not respond to voicemails and a text message. City Attorney Glen Mozingo did not respond to a voicemail or an email seeking comment on Thursday afternoon and early evening.
Stemler says she and Mozingo spoke on Dec. 1, within a day or so of complaining to Rerig, and Mozingo told her the mayor would not behave that way again, and that the city would hire a coach to help counsel Dallas.
Stemler says she met in person with Mozingo and Carmel’s human resources director, Maxine Gullo, on Dec. 8, and made it clear she did not want to publicize her complaint.
Later that day, Stemler says she contacted Gullo about how other women who claim to have been subjected to similar behavior could file formal complaints.
By Dec. 13, Mozingo contacted Stemler to say her complaint would be considered a formal complaint, and was public information. He also told her the city was hiring a third-party investigator to interview both her and Dallas.
On Dec. 22, the Weekly filed a California Public Records Act request, seeking "formal complaint(s) of sexual harassment filed with Carmel city officials in 2017."
According to the city’s response, received on Dec. 27, "The city has no responsive records pursuant to this request."
The Weekly has requested a copy of the city’s contract with an outside investigator, and has not yet received a response.