Rick Daniels Discriminating Against Two on City Council
DESERT HOT SPRINGS, CA – City hall hours have for a long time been Monday through Thursday. City hall is closed on Fridays. This has caused a problem for council members trying to contact city management by email during non-work hours. It is a problem that has escalated into a charge of harassment.
City Manager Rick Daniels has made it clear he is not to be sent emails by council members when he is not at work. His instruction to council members is that they should compose their email, save it as a draft and then send the email to him during his working hours.
Right Now Send Later
“Thank you for your note, but please do not send messages during non working hours,” wrote Rick Daniels to Councilman Adam Sanchez in a February 6, 2013 email. “As I have explained in the past, it is an intrusion into my personal time. I am more than happy to respond to any request that you have for information during work hours.”
City Manager Daniels then offers a tip to help Adam Sanchez comply with his request. Rick Daniels wrote…
“Here’s a tip. Input your message into the City provided iPad and save it until work hours then hit send. I will respond at the first available opportunity.”
Sanchez had originally written to Daniels to ask him about upcoming community involvement workshop to be hosted by Pepperdine University.
Rick Daniels Plays Harassment Card
Councilman Adam Sanchez is not the only council member unable to reach City Manager Rick Daniels after hours and to get a warning from the city manager. Councilman Russell Betts received the same sort of reply. However, Daniels reply to Betts was considerably more terse and came under a single word email subject line “Harassment.”
Daniels wrote to Betts on January 25, 2012…
“Councilor Betts, City Hall is closed. Please stop this harrassment (sic) on my personal time. I have asked you in every possible manner to cease.
The emails traded between the council members and the city manager all travel through the city email account, not to or from either party’s personal email with the original council inquiry being about some matter of city business.
Councilman Russell Betts, email that drew the ire of Rick Daniels was to simply inquire if a public notice had gone out that the city’s human resources director had left the employ of the city. Betts sent the email through the city server at 2:15 a.m.
WARNING – Do Not Open Email After Hours
Russell Betts’ position – one he stated by email to Rick Daniels in reply – was that it is up to Daniels to decide when he opens his email and that he did not expect a reply during non-work hours. Betts wrote…
“Rick, As I have told you before, you are free to open your email sent to your work email address at any time you choose. There is no request or expectation that you read or reply during your non-work hours. To my knowledge my email is not going to your personal email address but is going through the city server. When you chose to access your email is completely your decision and I have no expectation of an immediate answer during hours you are not at work.”
In apparent reaction to Rick Daniels complaints about receiving emails when he is not at work, both councilors have now begun including notes in all of their emails to Daniels to let him know they do not expect him to reply during non-work hours if they should write to him.
Councilman Adam Sanchez puts the notice at the top of each email. Russell Betts uses an automatic disclaimer at the bottom of each email the same as Daniels himself uses to advise people he writes to that all email written to him are public record.
Examining the City Manager’s Emails
Desert Vortex News has the palimpsest of over 6,000 emails from the city manager’s email account obtained as part of a public information request.
Having emails arrive in his email Inbox from council members during his non-working hours has so upset city manager Rick Daniels that he has asked the entire council to address the issue during its discussion over city meetings guidelines and procedures.
On January 30, 2012, Rick Daniels wrote…
“Please resolve this matter during your upcoming discussion on your Council’s Policies and Procedures. I have asked that out of respect for employees of the City organization that Councilors hold their requests until regular work hours. Feel free to write them down, but please avoid send until City Hall is open. This is basic employment law; time on- time off.”
A scan of several hundred of Rick Daniels emails finds that Daniels seems to be singling out only Adam Sanchez and Russell Betts for his no contact during non-work hours rule.
Rick Daniels, like millions of other people, has no control over the hours people send email. The city manager regularly receives emails from council members and others at city hall well into the evening and early morning hours. Not to mention, all the emails Rick Daniels receives from contractors and government agencies with every form of announcement.
We found no email by the city manager requesting council member Jan Pye to cease emailing him during non-work hours but we did find emails from Pye to Daniels when he was not at work, including an example of a curious one…
Tuesday, October 16, 2012 11:49:41 PM
You and your staff are doing an EXCELLENT execution of Council policies. We as Council members need to recognize that and not criticize you or your staff for executing our polices even when we don’t always remember what they are.
I thank you for your leadership and for the leaders you have chosen and those leaders who have hired people to execute City Council policies.
I know in my heart that we as governors (staff and Council) of the best practices are moving toward excellence as our community recognizes/gleans new nuisances based on the change of our demographics. Together we are managing that change. That is very serious and very productive and proactive.
I am one Council member, not a powerful Council member, just one of five that wants to state my thank you to you and all City staff.
Council members are not the only emails sent throughout the night. Here is an example of non-critical event newsletter sent at in the early morning hours…
Received time: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 12:48:55 AM
ICMA Leadership Matters Newsletter: Manager’s Role in Executive Recruitment, Career Resources, Citizen Engagement [a simple newsletter]
Emails were received from civic commissioners after hours…
Received time: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 9:59:27 PM
From George Fisher [complimenting and giving Daniels “citizen of the year” award]
Many more emails were received and sent by city manager Rick Daniels during his “off duty” hours from 6:00 P.M. to 6:00 A.M plus on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Daniels monthly compensation as city manager is $25,000 a month.
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. Now online with over 3 million readers worldwide.
Dean is a Master Carpenter and the author of the biography of Hilda M Gray, desert homesteader. He served as Planning Commissioner for the city of Desert Hot Springs from January 2014 to January 2015 when he resigned.
Dean M Gray is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors and lives in Palm Desert, California.