Embattled council debates semantics as city administrator remains on the job.

Behind Closed Doors: A city employee says Carmel City Administrator Rich Guillen, above, sexually harassed her. The city settled the lawsuit, and six months later, Guillen’s still got a job.

Sparks flew in Carmel at its Feb. 1 council meeting as a debate over the city’s compliance with California’s open meetings law continues to rage. 

On the morning of the meeting, City Councilman Jason Burnett announced that the council’s agenda would include a report from a September closed session at which the council appears to have voted on the fate of embattled City Administrator Rich Guillen. 

A few hours later, City Attorney Don Freeman changed his mind and declared there would be no announcement. 

Former City Councilman Mike Brown told the council that Carmelites are asking, “What the hell is going on in Carmel?” given that Guillen remains in office, six months after the city paid its former Human Resources Manager Jane Miller more than $600,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that Guillen barraged her with endearment-filled emails and eliminated her job when she failed to respond to his advances. 

Under the Brown Act, city council members must discuss personnel matters in closed session, but they’re required to report the results of any votes taken behind closed doors unless a matter is still pending. “I don’t believe final action was taken,” Freeman said.

“I believe it is final action,” responded City Councilman Jason Burnett. “But if not, why was the most recent request (for an additional closed session meeting to discuss the Guillen matter) rejected on the grounds we have nothing to discuss?” 

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Burnett demanded a direct answer from Freeman, but didn’t get one. He moved that a closed session meeting be scheduled that week. City Councilman Ken Talmage seconded the motion, but it failed 3-2. 

Burnett reports that the city is attempting to schedule a closed session later this month.

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