Controversial Former City Manager Returns, to Say Goodbye
RANCHO MIRAGE, CA – The man The Desert Sun describes as “the most divisive person in the Coachella Valley” returns to a $100 a plate farewell reception party organized by a loose group naming themselves “Friends of Rick Daniels.” The event is scheduled for Saturday, September 28 from 6-9 PM at Fleming’s Restaurant in Rancho Mirage.
“We are not a 501c3,” said former Palm Springs Mayor Will Kleindienst who was identified by the Desert Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce as organizer of the event’s Host Committee.
According to the Chamber – and Kleindienst – no one who lives in the city of Desert Hot Springs is a member of the Host Committee. Money raised from the Rancho Mirage dinner benefits the Desert Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce.
“I can understand why they are having this event in Rancho Mirage,” said Rita Del Valle, a resident of Desert Hot Springs. “If they had his event in our city there would likely be protesters with picket signs.”
Over the last six years that Rick Daniels was employed by the city of Desert Hot Springs as city manager, pocketing nearly $2 million in pay and benefits.
Just as he resigned his job in April Daniels provided an unbalanced budget to the city and cutting all funding for the Chamber of Commerce. The Desert Hot Springs city council restored funding. Then Daniels left this city’s employ to negotiate a pay raise when hired as city manager for Needles, California.
“We are not planning on giving him a proclamation or a basket of fruit,” said Kleindienst. “It’s nothing like that. We are just saying goodbye to a friend.”
According to Kleindienst the political dinner is not a review of Rick Daniels’ record but only an assembly of the many friends Rick Daniels acquired while shuffling his way around management positions as CEO of the Coachella Valley Economic Development Association and head of the Salton Sea Authority.
Both cities of Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs are now having elections of council members and their mayors for a November election. Attendees of the political soirée are expected to be an elite who’s who of Coachella Valley movers and shakers.
It is not yet confirmed that high-profile developers Richard Oliphant and John Wessman will attend. However, notable executives of Gannett Newscorp, owners of The Desert Sun newspaper are expected. Rick Daniels spoke highly of enjoying vacationing with Gannett’s Vice President Bob Dickie and was especially close to certain members of local newspapers.
Calling Upon All Friends of Rick Daniels
Kleindienst expects the dinner turnout to include politicians from all Coachella Valley cities and Riverside County, as well from the Salton Sea. Kleindienst said he was pleased that promotion for the political event was picked up reporter Erica Felci in her Political Insider column in The Desert Sun.
It’s been a sometimes rocky road for Rick Daniels. Towards the end of his career in the Coachella Valley Rick Daniels suffered a contentious relationship with the media. It did not start out that way. Initially, Daniels employed Laura Green, wife Rick Green, editor of The Desert Sun as his administrative assistant which at the time put an end to negative reporting of the city by The Desert Sun.
Laura Green enjoyed a variety of positions under Daniels while working her way around him with a series of promotions and pay raises from the city. As per Daniels’ strategy The Desert Sun only reported good news about the city.
Rick Daniels’ relationship with Laura Green blew up after a San Diego event in 2010 which both attended. Daniels immediately went into alcohol rehab and Laura Green was rewarded with a settlement agreement paying her nearly $90,000 city money for her promising not to sue the city. The Desert Sun then slowly returned to releasing occasional reporting about what was going on inside the city of Desert Hot Springs.
Chamber Freaked Out
So worried about a backlash of the community protesting The Rick Daniels Farewell Dinner the DHS Chamber of Commerce initially announced someone hacked into the Chamber’s notification of the event. It was later discovered the truth was only someone simply canceling their reservation. Still keeping the event hush hush to locals, any mention of the event remains absent from the Chamber website.
Money collected from event is aimed at helping the Desert Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, which suffered funding cuts under the budget created by Daniels. The city is is also facing a difficult situation described as a “financial crisis” according to Urban Futures, the city’s financial consultant.
Coming Back, Again?
There is speculation that the real purpose of this dinner party is for Rick Daniels to keep a foot in the door for his permanent return to the Coachella Valley should the political situation in Needles destabilize into another unbearable problem of divisiveness.
Daniels invested heavily establishing his credibility with his creation of three personal Internet websites promoting his legacy – in addition to his several social media accounts with LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. This expense and kind of investment seems ambitiously aimed towards something much greater than the city of Needles, California.
Remember that your RSVP is necessary to attend the Rick Daniels Farewell Reception Party. Contact the Desert Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce at (760) 329-6403 or those “in the know” can contact Will Kleindienst directly.
Fleming’s Restaurant: 71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
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.