A Carmel City Council investigation into a complaint of harassment against former city attorney Doug Haney will not include a subpoena that would make details of the city’s settlement with the accuser public.
The Carmel City Council considered a proposal Monday that would’ve allowed its president to pursue a subpoena to reveal the settlement with the unidentified employee so that the entire council could review it in private, compile a redacted report and make recommendations for preventing similar incidents from occurring in the future. That motion failed by virtue of a 4-4 vote before all council members present voted to approve a revised motion, which was written to allow the investigation to proceed without information in the settlement.
Council members Laura Campbell, Sue Finkam, Tony Green and Tim Hannon voted in favor of initial motion.
“The city has not been cooperative with requests for information, has not been upfront about any agreements with Haney for continued work with the city and has not followed policies outlined in the employee handbook for handling employee complaints,” Campbell said.
Campbell, who was council president at the time, said she was approached in November 2020 by a city employee who had filed a harassment complaint against Haney several months prior. The employee expressed concerns about how long the investigation was taking and the lack of a formal report.
Mayor Jim Brainard said he couldn’t comment on the matter due to ongoing litigation, but then said the pandemic delayed the investigation.
“It took longer than I’d prefer. Some of it was scheduling with various people involved, but the handbook was followed,” Brainard said.
He continued to say there was “a lot of misinformation on the dais,” but declined to say what council members had gotten wrong.
“In general cases like this, the executive branch runs the city. If an employee has an issue, you want to protect that and handle those complaints on the executive side as much as possible to protect the employee,” Brainard said. “It’s very easy to turn that around and say something is not transparent when the intent was solely to protect the employee.”
According to Campbell, the employee was permitted to go on administrative leave while the investigation was under way. Meanwhile, Haney was able to continue his work at the city. Campbell told the city’s administration, human resources department and city council she was concerned about the handling of the investigation in mid-December.
Once word got out, Campbell said several current and former city employees contacted her with their own stories of harassment and hostile work environments at the city.
Though Haney resigned four days after Campbell mentioned her concerns, he was soon hired as an independent contractor in January to help transition the city’s ongoing cases. He submitted one claim for $2,835 before the contract was terminated in March.
“This was despite the mayor telling me and other councilors that Haney was gone, and there was no further business between him and the city,” Campbell said.
Campell said, though the city’s handbook requires a written response to employees’ complaints, an attorney hired by the city to handle the investigation disagreed. She said she attended mediation to relay information from the settlement to her fellow council members but was met with a non-disclosure agreement.
Finkam said state code gives the council the power it needs to review the city’s investigation. She also questioned why, after having just issued a 300-plus page report on the Carmel Redevelopment Commission’s mishandling of the Hotel Carmichael, the city council would vote against more transparency.
“It is clear we are entitled to this power, and why we would vote to limit our own power to reduce our transparency after we just beat up the CRC for a lack of transparency just absolutely confounds me,” Finkam said.
In addition to needing to know the extent of the situation, Hannon said the council needs to also look at the system that allowed Haney to continue working.
“There was a special relationship between the chief executive and the chief counsel which really muddied … how this was handled,” Hannon said. “You have a chief executive not being helpful, so to speak, in the chain of command. This body needs to act, and act definitively.”
Council members Adam Aasen, Miles Nelson, Kevin Rider and Jeff Worrell voted against the initial motion. They condemned the alleged harassment, but their arguments against subpoenaing the settlement were largely based on privacy concerns.
Aasen said the complainant in the case requested the matter be kept confidential, and that the council had effectively identified the person by talking about the matter in public. He said he’s worried the continued public discussion might dissuade future complainants from coming forward.
“Yes, Doug Haney acted inappropriately. But I’m disappointed at how this process is going out. We’re really going against the wishes of the victim, and I’m not really sure for what reason,” Aasen said.
Rider said he would vote against anything that would possibly make the settlement public, for the sake of protecting the employee.
“We’ve investigated it, people. We’re not voting on an investigation here. We’re voting on whether to basically break down a nondisclosure agreement, which could possibly make something public, which in my opinion harms the employee,” he said.
Whether the investigation included a review of the settlement or not, Rider said he’s spoken with the city’s administration about taking corrective action.
Brainard said he thinks a good solution would be to offer employees the ability to call a third-party phone line to lodge complaints that would then be simultaneously delivered to the president of the city council, the mayor and the city’s human resources director.