Carmel City Council closed sessions are usually low-key affairs. Not this Tuesday, Aug. 24. While the five-member council discussed the performance of embattled City Administrator Rich Guillen in private, several dozen local citizens calling for his head waited in the council chambers.
“[Guillen] should have given it up or been fired long ago,” says Barbara Stiles. “I’m here to let the City Council know we’re very concerned and we want some action.”
The city recently paid former Human Resources Manager Jane Miller more than $600,000 to settle her claim that Guillen had not only sexually harassed her, but favored women employees who responded to his advances, and eliminated her position because she didn’t.
City Councilman Jason Burnett requested the closed-door (required by law when personnel or legal matters are discussed) meeting following a standing-room-only council session and a more than 100-person town hall gathering in which several residents demanded Guillen’s ouster.
“[The Miller case] is not the first time an employee has left Carmel in recent years with complaints and concerns about the [City Hall] workplace,” Burnett says.
“One complaint is serious enough. A pattern of complaints is more worrisome.”
During Guillen’s tenure, the city of Carmel paid four former employees some $500,000 to settle claims similar to Miller’s, according to sworn declarations by her attorney, Michael Stamp.
“If you look at the sums involved,” Burnett says, “it’s far in excess of a dollar value that would be associated with a thank you for years of service.”
The latest City Council session is one of a handful held in recent weeks to discuss Guillen’s performance; no decision has been reached on whether he’ll continue his job. Now, as council deliberations continue, public calls for his departure are likely to grow louder.
Mayor Sue McCloud has steadfastly refused to comment on issues surrounding Miller’s lawsuit. “I’m not discussing anything about that. I’m not going to go there,” McCloud says.
Still the subject arose in a recent meeting between McCloud and three former Carmel mayors, according to one of them, Jean Grace. “We told her that in our opinion she and the council should start looking for a new city administrator.”
The Miller lawsuit, Grace says, “indicates to all of us something we’ve suspected. We do not have an effective city manager.” But McCloud reportedly has said that Guillen is indispensable because of his involvement with water issues and his participation in Peninsula-wide discussions with other cities and public agencies.
The Carmel Residents Association, which has often opposed McCloud, is digging into the matter, with its members prepared to pore over case documents. City Councilman Burnett is doing the same in preparation for a policy review he’s asked the city council to begin at its Sept. 14 meeting.
Burnett has said he wants to make sure the city has the proper procedures in place to prevent a costly repeat of the Miller matter.