City Official Mangles Search Engine Results
DESERT HOT SPRINGS, CA – Most city managers maintain a low profile. It is unusual for a city manager to have a personal website. City managers usually work in the background, giving credit to city staff and the city council for municipal accomplishments. Not so the city manager of Desert Hot Springs.
City Manager Rick Daniels has a difficult time keeping himself away from the speaker podium at public events and avoiding the awkward appearance that he is unable to stand back without thrusting himself into the spot light of public recognition. His public persona is that he takes credit for everything and goes to unusual lengths to make sure everyone knows about it.
Daniels not only competes for publicity with the city council members he serves, he also actively competes with news outlets that are critical of his performance. In his five years as city manager he has repeatedly made multi-million dollar mistakes. Those mistakes have landed his name, to his chagrin, in the news.
Instead of correcting behavior that won him notoriety, the city manager is inordinately active in a pursuit to bury the news. He has done that by creating multiple websites to overwhelm search engines and thus bury the critical reporting he disagrees with. Not content with two such personal websites, he has recently added a third.
rickdaniels.org is the latest effort and now joins rickdanielscitymanager.com and rickdanielsdeserthotsprings.com. The city manager’s newest website launched just this week. The deep amount of personal website content all point to Rick Daniels’ hand in crafting the website’s pages. It is all glowing reviews, rich in keyword accolades; the pleasing taste of popcorn propaganda.
Rick Daniels is alone among city managers in the Coachella Valley with his own website. No other city manager in any of the other eleven desert region’s cities has a personal website, much less one touting themselves proclaiming their accomplishments while working on the city dime. We tried to find one other city manager in all of California that has such a website and found none.
There may be one out there, but we could not find it.
New Form of Info Control
This public relations scheme by the city manager may signal the vanguard of a new form of information control. The public sector already has an advantage over the private sector when it comes to news management with money, status and time to manipulate.
Popular search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo contain an unusual number of news reports critical of this city manager featuring traditional media such as The Desert Sun, a Gannett product, joined by network affiliate news broadcasts from local TV stations online. Numerous dedicated online news media have also published investigative reports regarding the city manager of Desert Hot Springs.
Now Rick Daniels’ personal websites are crowding up to the top of the SERP (Search Engine Response Pages) not due to popularity counted by website traffic metrics but due to paid positioning incorporating clever design tactics.
Why Earn Positioning If You Can Buy It
Rick Daniels is only doing what he can to get the results he wants. The city manager does not have to convince the public of anything to keep his job. To keep his pockets filled Rick Daniels has to convince at least three council members to renew his contract worth millions of dollars. Two council members have been outspoken in expressing little or no confidence in the city manager. Using the online forum Rick Daniels is attempting to convince the city that keeping him on the job is worth the expense.
This new form of government tyranny manages the news and mangles the First Amendment to suppress critical reporting. No longer is it enough to insult reporters or name call The Desert Sun with the epithet “The Desert Scum” or cry foul by saying the news media are are all just a bunch of liars. If you can’t grease the wheels with a smile and a lunch, manipulating the news media to do what you want, just buy them out or bury them. That’s how corporations and government are controlling the freedom of the press and free enterprise.
Images of Deception
The websites of Rick Daniels uses deceptive images. The picture of the city council looks like it was cut out from the Law and Order television show. The picture of the city looks like New York instead of Desert Hot Springs. Plus a large number of images appear to be generic photo files instead of actual people and places in the city that employs him. Most glaring of all is the substitution of a Camdenton police photo instead of an image from the Desert Hot Springs police force.
Another means of strategic website trickery involves the inclusion of links and mentions of recognizable institutions and businesses with links to high-ranking websites. Littered among frequent mentions of the “Rick Daniels” keyword phrase, his website also mentions and links to different high-ranking social causes.
Techniques to create webpages that receive automatic high SERP top rank positions include placing key search words and phrases – like “Rick Daniels” – in the domain, or website name. That gets the highest results. Government websites also enjoy relevant authority to automatically achieve top ranking.
Another technique to win higher ranking on SERP is to place recognizable words in the category list. That is why Rick Daniels lists on one website a category of “Visit Palm Springs” instead of “Visit Desert Hot Springs.”
With just 10 positions available on the primary Google SERP, Daniels now has purchased domination with 50% of the results to get his personal message out that he is a perfect city manager. Rick Daniels’ is selling the message of success and accomplishments, contrasting with the large number of news reports linking the city manager to the questionable loss of millions of dollars of city funds.
It is actually not clear who even owns the three Rick Daniels websites, as website ownership is masked with proxy names. It is also not known how much time on the city clock the city manager worked in having the websites created. It is also unknown who paid for the website development and who is paying for the maintenance of the websites or even if city funds were used. City policies enable the city manager to spend $35,000 without requiring approval by the city council and Daniels has made no comment on his websites. No matter the expense, Daniels can well afford to pay.
Big Pay For Top Position
Pay for the controversial Desert Hot Springs city manager is $25,000 a month or $300,000 a year with benefits.
Daniels was hired in 2007 and has been paid approximately $1,500,000.00 as of this date. Either the city can justify Daniels’ websites as good PR for the city or Daniels is footing the bill for the expense and maintenance.
The cost of three websites may just be another business expense by Daniels to keep his job as his three-year contract is coming up for another renewal. It is easy to see how Rick Daniels would value the expense as worthwhile to overcome the inertia of critical reporting.
Two weeks ago a report by city auditors was released revealing that the city manager spent over $500,000 in excess than was budget for last year. Rick Daniels announced that deficit spending will be covered by spending the city reserves. Continued deficit spending by the city manager will reduce city reserves from $5 million to $2 million this year. The city Finance Committee is considering a reduction of public safety by cutting the police budget as well as tax increases but is not considering any reduction in management salaries.
What must be especially troubling to Rick Daniels are the persistent online reports expressing critical remarks concerning his drinking problem, listing millions of dollars in lost city revenue and stories suggesting he played a role in a relationship with his former assistant that was paid nearly $100,000 not to sue the city for something having to do with sexual harassment. None of that is mentioned on Rick Daniels’ personal websites, only praise for a job well done.
City Managers have powerful support from professional association lobbying groups.
icma.org International City Management Association (membership private)
cacities.org League of California Cities special city manager section (membership paid by city)
mmasc.org Municiple Management Association of Southern California (membership private)
cacitymanagers.org California City Management Foundation (Rick Daniels is not listed as member)
City Manager Rick Daniels has control of ten websites and social media profile webpages, enough to dominate SELP.
Three personal websites are all about Rick Daniels: Desert Hot Springs Rick Daniels, City Manager Rick Daniels and Rick Daniels.
The official city website is under Daniels’ control: including the City Manager’s City Memo page providing a powerful platform to advance agendas and list accomplishments.
Six social media profiles are controlled by Daniels: the Facebook fan page for the city, Daniels’ Facebook profile, Daniels’ LinkedIn profile, Daniels’ Google profile and two Twitter accounts @rickdaniels10 and @radaniels (locked and unavailable to public)
There could be more, in his name or aliases. We just do not know.
Still, one website remains out of reach to Rick Daniels, a webpage calling itself The Mother of all Rick Daniels Websites, containing a treasure trove of links to all the above websites. That page is located at http://www.desertvortex.com/desert-hot-springs-city-manager-rick-daniels/ From there links to all the above websites can be found.