Rick Daniels Says City Council is Disaster to Him
photo by Max Lieberman/Desert Local News
DESERT HOT SPRINGS, CA – An investigation by the Riverside County District Attorney says it appears illegal meetings in violation of the Brown Act have been taking place inside city hall between City Manager Rick Daniels and three council members. The inevitable knee-jerk denial squirting out of city hall is that no Brown Act violations are taking place and nothing is wrong. No matter. The evidence is in hand, the result of our public information requests. The city manager’s own city email account is the smoking gun.
The DA is alleging that Rick Daniels violated a provision of the Brown Act that prevents secret government meetings. The law prohibits three council members meeting and discussing matters in private. It also says they can’t do it by phone, texting, instant messenger, video conferencing and email. Heck, they can’t do it by Morse code, sign language or semaphore either.
The DA was brought in after Rick Daniels announced to the world in a city report that he regularly meets with three council members and that two have declined to attend.
It did not just happen once or just with meetings. In an examination of just two months of the city manager’s emails reviewed, there are multiple examples of communications between three council members on a wide range of issues from the profane to the sublime with Rick Daniels acting as the focal point around which everything revolves.
The emails between the city manager and the three council members seem rife with violations of the Brown Act provisions regarding serial meetings.
Although our public document request only reviewed October and November of 2012, there are repeated emails from one council member to Rick Daniels with carbon copies sent to two other council members. Scott Matas sends emails to the city manager and CC’s council member Jan Pye and Mayor Yvonne Parks. Council member Jan Pye emails Daniels with CC’s to Matas and Parks and Mayor Parks emails Daniels with CCs to Matas and Pye.
If this is not a serial meeting then what is? These facts are black and white and not a matter of judgment.
In over 6,000 emails examined, two things are clear. Council members Russell Betts and Adam Sanchez are absent from these discussions and their absence was no accident.
City Council Opposition
In an exchange with a private resident with no position in city government, the city manager let loose with a disparaging barrage against two council members, calling them “a disaster” preventing him from doing what he has to do. The emails, sent on city equipment and on city time, came at a time when Rick Daniels was taking heated criticism for the failure of the music festival.
The citizen wrote to Daniels, in a somewhat cryptic manner, seemingly to cheer him up.
From: [Name Withheld]
To: Rick Daniels
Sent: Thursday, October 11, 2012
I am amazed at your ability to not only work with the Dark Forces but overcome them. I only hope that you will (not that you can’t) out last them. I really enjoyed working with you and was always proud of the way in which you represented us. I’m only sorry that I couldn’t stay to join you in the fight for sanity… there were those of us who were thinking about strategies.
From: Rick Daniels
To: [Name Withheld]
Russell and Adam are a disaster that keeps me from doing what I could do.
[followed by some personal information we have edited out]
Rick Daniels’ remarks are clearly insulting and purposely undermining two council members to a member of the public. Yet, the city manager’s emails reveal more than open hostility on public time. This is no mistake. Daniels is keeping certain affairs of the city from the oversight of two council members and except for our public information request, from the public.
In another series of emails, it is clear the effort also involves a city consultant.
In those emails regarding an economic development summit, city economic consultant Michael Bracken exclusively sent emails to Jan Pye, Scott Matas and Yvonne Parks to update them on economic issues and coordinate with them an economic forum the city held three months ago.
Two council members, Betts and Sanchez, were entirely left out of that Michael Bracken’s loop of communications while three council members, a quorum under the Brown Act, were active participants in the discussion and program planning leading up to the event.
The city manager’s emails also tell the story that Rick Daniels colluded with Michael Bracken to orchestrate their exclusion in these communications.
The disasters facing Rick Daniels are not two elected representatives. Over the last five years of his employ, time and again Daniels escaped taking responsibility for his actions by accepting accolades when things went right and shifting the blame to others for city management failures.
The city manager is a victim of his own device. The disasters are not his employers. The disasters are those he created for himself, such as announcing to the world that he regularly meets with three council members with two not in attendance.
For over 40 years Dean has been published in a variety of small newspapers and magazines. As publisher he founded an alternative city weekly newspaper in 2008 and published over 200 uninterrupted issues over 4 years to over 20,000 readers via 800 locations (and online) before selling the business.
Dean is a Master Carpenter and the author of the biography of Hilda M Gray, desert homesteader.
In 2014 he was appointed Planning Commissioner for the city of Desert Hot Springs, California.
Dean M Gray is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors and lives in Desert Hot Springs, California.