City Hall

Citrus Heights council votes 4-1 to censure one of its own

Bret Daniels, Citrus Heights
Citrus Heights council members discuss censuring Bret Daniels, right, during a special meeting on June 7, 2018. // CH Sentinel

Updated June 11, 8:52 a.m.–
Sentinel staff report–
Citrus Heights Councilman Bret Daniels was officially censured by his fellow council members during a special meeting held at city hall on June 7. Daniels was the lone “no” vote in opposing the motion to censure himself.

The move came after several police reports surfaced from 2008 and 2017, alleging he repeatedly pursued communication with a former high school girlfriend in a manner she called “creepy.” The allegations were investigated by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, which concluded that no criminal conduct occurred, but council members said elected officials are held to a higher standard and said they were more prone to believe the woman due to Daniels’ history, which includes being fired from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department nearly two decades ago after the department said he lied during an internal affairs investigation relating to whether he accessed a law enforcement database for personal use.

Vice Mayor Jeannie Bruins said the firing involved him trying to look up an old girlfriend while in Arizona, but Daniels said that was “not true.” Bruins, joined by Councilman Jeff Slowey, went a step further in calling for him to resign, to which Daniels replied, “that ain’t gonna happen.”

In a statement to media after the meeting, Daniels called the push for him to resign “absolutely ludicrous.”

“What else can you say, it’s absolutely ludicrous,” said Daniels. “I’ll just leave it at that, I’m done with it. I know in my heart what’s true.”

During the 35-minute meeting, Daniels read from a prepared statement that detailed the history of his relationship with the woman, whose name was redacted from publicly released police reports. He said the two had dated in high school in the late 1970s, became engaged, and then mutually broke off the relationship, but continued seeing each other as friends over the years.

“This effort to censure me for unacceptable conduct and a pattern of behavior is without merit,” said Daniels in concluding remarks. “My conduct has amounted to sending a few emails over a couple of decades, none of which I received any response to stop.”

Following Daniels’ statement, Vice Mayor Bruins called his story and the narrative listed in the police reports, “two representations that are worlds apart.”

“Based on my history with you, I am inclined to believe the victim in this and I am in support of the censure,” said Bruins, referencing her past experience with Daniels, who previously served on the council from 1999 to 2005, before being elected again by voters in 2016.

Councilman Slowey also echoed Bruins’ comments and said he supported the censure, citing Daniels being fired from the sheriff’s department, as well as other information he said he wouldn’t disclose due to it being received second-hand.

“In my opinion, you have a responsibility to act above and beyond your average citizen, and maybe you don’t feel that way,” said Slowey. “To me, there’s a pattern of behavior that I don’t find acceptable to the city or as a city council member.”

Councilman Albert Fox said effort was made to ensure the information about the police reports was “not prematurely released to the public” in order to avoid any appearance that the city was attempting to interfere with the June 5 election, in which Councilman Daniels was on the ballot running against Scott Jones for county sheriff. He also said he agreed with “findings” in the police reports and supported the motion to censure, but Daniels took aim at Fox’s comments and said there couldn’t be findings “without an investigation.”

“There’s no findings, because there was no investigation,” said Daniels. “There’s a report that was written based on somebody saying something to somebody. Those aren’t findings, that’s a statement that somebody made.”

Daniels later acknowledged that an investigation could have occurred, but he said he was never contacted by Citrus Heights police or the District Attorney’s Office during any such investigation. He said the lack of being contacted was an indication that any allegations made against him “did not rise to the level” that would merit him needing to be contacted.

A request sent to the DA’s office on Friday to confirm whether any attempt was made to contact Daniels was not immediately responded to.

Responding to a question from Mayor Steve Miller about why Daniels would ” turn around and send an email to his wife” after a confrontation with the woman’s husband in 2008, the councilman conceded that it may have been “improper” to email the woman at that time.

Following the vote to censure Daniels, several council members offered additional comments, including the vice mayor’s call for Daniels to resign and a comment from Councilman Slowey.

“It’s embarrassing, to be honest with you, to be airing the city’s dirty laundry like this in a public forum — but that’s how we have to do it,” said Slowey, referencing California’s public meetings laws that require such decisions to be made in public. “It’s just too bad that it’s gotten this far, and that some people can’t take responsibility for their actions.”

The vote to censure Daniels will likely create a larger rift on the five member council, where Daniels has already often been the odd man out. A month after being seated in office after his 2016 election, Daniels had his pick for appointment to the planning commission rejected by his fellow council members who refused to ratify his appointment. He also has been a lone “no” vote on fiscal-related matters more than once, most recently breaking with his colleagues in a 4-1 vote where the council voted to officially oppose a possible November ballot measure that would make it more difficult for cities to approve new local taxes and fees.

From 2016: Bret Daniels’ election to city council called ‘a shocker’ by Citrus Heights leaders

As previously reported, The Sentinel obtained copies of the two police reports involving Daniels. The 2008 report was initiated by a man, whose name was redacted from the report, who accused Daniels of “stalking” a woman for the past 25 years and was “obsessed” with her. The officer who took the report, Gina Anderson, also contacted the woman involved and was told the two had dated in high school, but she had come into contact with him one or two times per year since then.

The report also stated that Daniels and the woman have mutual acquaintances who have been asked “invasive questions” about her by Daniels, although the officer stated the woman “could not tell me exactly what questions were asked.” On Oct. 8, 2008, Daniels had also reportedly stopped by her mother’s house and told a neighbor he was looking for her and recalled having “fond memories of the house.”

The report said the woman did not believe Daniels actions were criminal, but due to his alleged “pattern of behavior” making her uncomfortable and fearful, she wanted to contact police to “start a record.”

The second police report, from September 2017, states that Daniels met with Citrus Heights Police Chief Ron Lawrence on an unrelated matter and had inquired whether the department was investigating a harassment claim from the woman. He told the chief she had said she was going to contact police after he had sent her an email “out of the blue” the prior month.

According to the police report, Lawrence was unaware of the incident at the time, but, after conducting a records check, he “became concerned that [redacted name] may be a victim of harassment by a public official.” A followup call to the woman by police indicated she wanted assistance with a restraining order, if there was “a way to prevent her name being released as a matter of public record,” the report said.

The woman told police she was “hesitant” to provide further information to the local police department, due to Daniels being a councilman in the same city and her questioning whether the department could be objective.

The report concluded with a recommendation to forward the case to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, for an independent investigation. As previously reported, a spokeswoman for the DA’s office confirmed with The Sentinel that an investigation had concluded and had “determined that no criminal conduct occurred.”

Daniels has also posted a response to the allegations on his Facebook page. His response can be viewed by clicking here.

A little more about Bret Daniels
Daniels, 57, previously served on the Citrus Heights city council from 1999 until he resigned in 2005 while going through a divorce. He has since re-married and has also run for various other campaigns for public office, including two attempts for city council in 2008 and 2012, a failed bid for Citrus Heights Water District director in 2014, and running five times for Sacramento County Sheriff since 1998 — most recently running against Sheriff Scott Jones in this year’s primary election.

What is censuring?
Censuring is a formal statement of strong disapproval, although not as severe a disciplinary action as expulsion.

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*An initial version of this story said Daniels had reportedly stopped by the woman’s house in 2008. It has since been updated to state that the house was her mother’s home, according to a statement made by Daniels during the council meeting. This story was also updated to include a link to Daniels’ response on his Facebook page and also to state that he is now re-married.