Money from City Manager Rick Daniels’ Mine Reclamation Corp Contributed to Mary Bono Mack Congressional Campaign
DESERT HOT SPRINGS, CA – Campaign contributions are an inherent part of American politics. However, contributions by government officials appearing to peddle or purchase influence while hiding their public office crosses an ethical line.
That the member of congress taking money from someone residing in another congressional district different is not odd on the surface. But the reality is that this involved Rick Daniels, the city manager of Desert Hot Springs, and he was contractually obligated not to be doing business as Mine Reclamation Corp.
Rick Daniels employment contract for his city manager job with Desert Hot Springs has a condition allowing him to maintain work for and as Richard A Daniels, inc. so long as his doing that work did not interfere with his job as city manager. There is no mention of Mine Reclamation Corp so his working there was prohibited.
For What Purpose?
At the time of Richard A Daniels making these financial contributions to Mary Bono Mack the congressional district of Desert Hot Springs was in that of Congressman Jerry Lewis, not Mary Bono Mack. In fact, the city that employed Daniels was the only city in the Coachella Valley not in the congressional district of Mary Bono. Redistricting then under discussion in 2010 would change that, making the entire Coachella Valley unified into one congressional district on the near horizon.
Another discussion was happening in 2010 regarding the future of a very public and very controversial project of Mine Reclamation Corp. The business that Richard A Daniels served as President intended to transport daily rail line loads of Los Angeles trash by train on tracks alongside Interstate 10 to dump LA trash in the Eagle Mountain Mine adjacent to the Joshua Tree National Park. Daniels’ business, Mine Reclamation Corp, had tied up the contract for the mine created by Kaiser Corp.
Eventually Daniels’ dream was crushed by a decision of the Supreme Court to avoid environmental disaster.
Trashman turned city manager Rick Daniels began his career in the trash business in Oregon before landing in the trash business in California. So entrenched has Daniels become in the local trash business that he borrowed money from a trash business in Big Bear to purchase his home in Desert Hot Springs.
Richard Daniels, the former bag man employed by Waste Management over a decade ago and named in a report by the San Diego District Attorney for having distributed money to curry favor with city officials has never been prohibited from making campaign contributions. That’s the way he works.
However, on the disclosure forms, Rick Daniels was not identified by his employment as City Manager but instead identified by his role as President of Mine Reclamation Corporation. There may be a problem with this.
Initially and upon the request of Daniels a special provision was inserted into his 2007 city manager employment contract allowing him to continue his work for Richard A Daniels, Inc., as independent consultant. However, as far as can be determined with our research, there was never any such provision allowing Daniels to continue work as President of Mine Reclamation Corporation, which he did anyway. That’s where the money enters the picture.
For 2009-10 a $500 contribution was made to the Mary Bono Congressional Campaign in the name of Richard A Daniels as President of Mine Reclamation, Corporation plus another $500 was made to the same congressional campaign in the name of his wife, Joyce E Daniels identifying herself as a homemaker, not disclosing employment at the Betty Ford Center.
Once more, there is nothing illegal about making campaign contributions. It is the manner in which it was done which appears an ethical violation.
(See: federal election records supplied by the FEC to City-Data and available online at http://www.city-data.com/elec2/elec-DESERT-HOT-SPRINGS-CA.html)
No Business License
The other problem associated with Mine Reclamation Corporation is that the address associated with these two business enterprises is the Desert Hot Springs home of Richard Daniels.
Although this is allowed by the municipal code, one of the major sticking points of Daniels’ harassment complaint against Councilman Russell Betts was that Betts was using his home to conduct business and did not have the home occupancy permit.
Two investigations by the city’s insurance company plus an investigation by the District Attorney cleared Betts of any wrongdoing. Not accepting that result were the three cronies of city manager Rick Daniels who occupy council positions, Jan Pye and Scott Matas joined by Mayor Yvonne Parks in spending $77,000 in public funds hiring an outside investigator in a vindictive and unsuccessful attempt to dig up evidence Betts was conducting business in his home without a license.
The findings of that report confirmed – again – that Betts was not conducting business from his home and did not violate any city ordinance.
The hypocrisy is that politician/bureaucrat Rick Daniels consulting business and Mine Reclamation Corporation both operate out of his Desert Hot Springs home and have no city business license. Although the State Fair Political Practices Commission might be interested, this matter will most likely never lead to a public dispute nor ever to cost the city anything to investigate since Rick Daniels resigned this city and goes to work for the city of Needles on September 3.
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.