by David Armstrong

Carmel City Council, in a contentious special meeting at city hall on Monday, August 6, voted 4-1 to give Mayor Steve Dallas authority to finalize a five-year contract with city attorney Glen R. Mozingo. The public gathering at times became emotionally charged and verbally bruising, with three council members heatedly admonishing members of the public from the dais.

Mozingo was hired as an independent contractor last year and has since hired two assistant city attorneys, citing an overwhelming workload. Before he was hired, reports in the Monterey County Weekly and Monterey Bay Partisan alleged that Mozingo exaggerated or fabricated much of his resume. Mozingo denies it. The city council recently declared that it looked into the matter and agreed with him. For its part, the Pine Cone, often considered the paper of record, has not covered the issue.

Former Monterey County Herald editor Royal Calkins, who blogs at voicesofmonterybay.org, filed suit July 9 against the City of Carmel in an attempt to force city hall to publically disclose documents that Mozingo says establish the veracity of his resume (and, by extension, the credibility of the city’s vetting process). The suit will be heard September 7 in Monterey County Superior Court.

Numerous members of the public spoke Monday against extending Mozingo’s contract – which includes payment of a $30,000 monthly sum.  No public speakers supported it. Some opposed the extension on the grounds that it costs too much, some due to the length of the contract. Others, referencing the Calkins lawsuit, asked the city to put the contract on pause until after the court rules.

No dice.

Councilmember Carolyn Hardy countered that the terms of the new contract are largely unchanged from the old one, save for a new 90-day termination clause that can be initiated by either party. Dallas argued that setting a fixed rate for the length of the contract is good given that legal rates will almost certainly rise over five years, and this saves the city money. Councilmember Carrie Theis, speaking at length, her voice trembling, argued that Mozingo has already done much to clean up a backlog of legal work he inherited last year, and Monday’s public discussion proves the process is transparent.

After praising the council’s hard work, CRA President Barbara Livingston spoke against the five-year contract. So did former mayor Sue McCloud, CRA board member Georgina Armstrong, city council candidate and former forest and beach commissioner Jeff Baron, former forest and beach commissioner Karen Ferlito, resident Hugo Ferlito, and former city council candidate Richard Kreitman.

The vote was 4-1, with Jan Reimers (who, for her part, spoke temperately) joining Hardy, Theis and Dallas in voting for the five-year contract. Dissenter Bobby Richards, who said he could support a one-year contract but not five, was the lone no vote.

Dallas, Theis and Hardy are all running in the November 6 election. It’s an off-year for Reimers and Richards.

The council meets again in Tuesday, August 7’s regularly scheduled 4:30 p.m. monthly public meeting to take up a variety of other issues.

Here are some takeaways from the Monday meeting:

The council believes it’s not getting enough love from the public.

Theis, Hardy and Dallas spoke with remarkable emotion, bordering on bitterness. Dallas estimates he clears barely a dollar an hour for his work as mayor and decried dissenting comments from the floor as “negative,” urging members of the public to please be “positive.” Hardy said Mozingo works for the council not the public, as he is not an employee but a contractor, and seemed to feel that public understanding of how the city works is minimal. Theis said she couldn’t understand why the public doesn’t understand how hard-working and responsible the council is, and said it at considerable length. When soft rumblings of disagreement were heard from the public seats, Dallas gaveled down the audience.

Public advocates and activists are frustrated by what they regard as a rigid, tone-deaf council.

Outside council chambers afterward, many who spoke against the contract were visibly upset. One person noted that the public is paid nothing to show up at council and commission meetings, attending on their own time and own dime. Another decried lecturing from the dais by officials who gave the public little opportunity to rebut what they were saying. Still others decried the short amount of time before meetings for residents to review agendas and documents to inform themselves. Some said they hoped the Calkins suit would give Carmel a much-needed Zen slap upside the head.