Rick Daniels Returns to Job He Wants to Leave
DESERT HOT SPRINGS, CA – City Manager Rick Daniels’ bid to depart Desert Hot Springs was not successful. As one of two finalist for a Clackamas County Administrator job he came up short. By a unanimous vote the county commissioners selected Donald Krupp over Daniels.
After failing in his bid for the job, Rick Daniels returns to the city that he described in his resume as a low-income and high crime-rate city. He returns to a city now struggling to keep itself from falling apart financially. The unanimous vote of the five elected county supervisors failed to provide Daniels the freedom he was seeking to move out of the city he manages.
For Daniels it would have been a move to his boyhood home in Oregon, a return to the state of his alma mater the University of Oregon and The Ducks, and a chance to live near his nine grandchildren. He also returns to numerous critics and an uncertain future in the city.
Rick Daniels abandoning his job in Desert Hot Springs caught city residents by surprise and off guard. He told everyone he was merely taking a vacation in Oregon. He did not announce he was trying to leave the city. It was a successfully held a secret. Insiders did not spill the beans.
Press reports from Clackamas County Oregon, however, made their way to Desert Hot Springs California. Those reports explained why Daniels was “vacationing” while a city finance committee worked to figure out a budget mess that experts say leaves the city broke in a year if not resolved.
It seemed odd to members of the finance committee that Rick Daniels was not at their meetings helping solve a financial debacle that experts said was the result of six years of city manager budgets, budgets that according to Michael Bush of Urban Futures, a city paid financial consultant, stacked up six years of deficit spending.
City’s Dire Fiscal Crisis
Urban Futures detailed for the committee a looming financial crisis that spells trouble for the city if not resolved immediately.
As city manager, Rick Daniels is responsible for city spending. Urban Futures has been advising Daniels for years that something must be done to correct the spending problem. All the while Daniels was advising the city council and the public that all was well.
Desert Vortex News
Over the last three years Daniels insisted the city budget was balanced. He bragged about of the city’s economic development and financial stability. Ironically, this year he advocated using the last of the city’s savings, $4 million in reserves, to get through the next fiscal year. That, according to Urban Futures, leaves the city broke in twelve months.
An attempt to fly under the radar and avoid tipping off city residents about his leaving the the city behind, Daniels used the name Richard A. Daniels in his job application. This masked his commonly used name Rick Daniels – the name he uses every day and the name emblazoned on his three personal websites. The name Richard A. Daniels is also a name unfamiliar to Google Alert services.
Daniels chances in Clackamas may have been hurt, however, by news of his own making. In three front pages stories in three days appearing in The Desert Sun newspaper, details about Daniel’s complaint against two Desert Hot Springs council members was broadcast. This, at the same time Daniels was in the thick of the new job competition.
That news made it all the way to Oregon, appearing in The Oregonian newspaper, a newspaper it is safe to say, that Clackamas County commissioners read.
Rick Daniels’ harassment claim six months earlier had been denied by the city’s insurance carrier. The insurance carrier told Daniels in a formal response letter that Daniels’ claims were unfounded.
Rick Daniels claim was that Council Members Russell Betts and Adam Sanchez were guilty of “bullying” [as Daniels called it] for sending him emails during his non-work hours. The assertion by Daniels was that he should only be contacted by Betts and Sanchez when he is at work from Monday through Thursday. Daniels like the rest of city employees works a four-day work week, 10 hours a day.
Rick Daniels tried to manipulate the ill-timed news reports by suggesting that Betts and Sanchez were telephone calling him in the middle of the night, an allegation both council members called absurd and that was never documented anywhere else.
Daniels failed to mention Councilwoman Jan Pye also regularly sent him emails during his off work hours.
The exaggerated spin found its way into two prominent newspapers, The Desert Sun and The Oregonian. By the time the spin was finished, Rick Daniels’ complaints over emails had morphed into Daniels receiving phone calls “in the middle of the night.”
Who would not think that was not bullying and explain away the kerfuffle.
Rick Daniels is reported to be returning to Desert Hot Springs on Monday July 22 to confront the hard feelings of city residents now saddled with the burden of having learned Daniels is actually working to bail out from his job.
Meanwhile, the lingering question about city finances remains. In the face of the Urban Futures report, citizen finance committee criticism and the public now asking questions, how can he continue suggesting all is well financially in Desert Hot Springs?
Rick Daniels returns as a lame duck city manager by virtue of his announcing his intentions to leave and his city manager contract that expires in December 2013.
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.