Last fall, Citrus Heights Police Chief Ron Lawrence summoned his officer to discuss a harassment allegation involving a sitting politician. It wasn’t the first time the department was forced to investigate Bret Daniels.
The Citrus Heights politician and frequent sheriff’s candidate had already been the subject of at least three complaints from two different women that he made them uncomfortable.
The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department fired Daniels in 2000 after a woman complained that the then-deputy used his professional status to learn where she lived in Arizona. Citrus Heights police investigated a separate complaint in 2008 that Daniels had been harassing an old high school flame for decades. Nine years later, the object of his unwanted attention complained to Roseville police that Daniels was at it again, sending her an unsolicited email filled with personal questions after she had told him repeatedly to leave her alone.
According to redacted police reports obtained by SN&R, Daniels met with Chief Lawrence shortly after Daniels’ August 29, 2017, email to his high school ex. The woman responded by writing Daniels that she would be reporting the incident to police. After discussing other matters, Daniels asked Lawrence if the department was investigating him.
Lawrence said it wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss an investigation if there was one, the police report states. The discussion ended shortly after.
In September 2017, Lawrence called Lt. Alex Turcotte to his office and debriefed the SWAT team commander about his conversation with Daniels. Lawrence was concerned that the woman “may be a victim of harassment by a public official,” Turcotte wrote in his police report. The chief asked Turcotte to contact the woman and determine if a crime had occurred.
The Sacramento County district attorney’s office also concluded Daniels hadn’t broken any laws, after Turcotte forwarded everything his department had on the allegations. But Daniels’ conduct around women has some wondering if the 58-year-old is a ticking liability in the east county suburb.
On Thursday, the Citrus Heights City Council will consider publicly censuring Daniels for conduct the city attorney has deemed “unacceptable” and “indicative of a pattern of behavior.”
Daniels pushed back against the narrative that he stalks woman, telling SN&R he emailed the high school acquaintance after not seeing or speaking to her for 20 years. In an email, Daniels claimed he was the victim of a plot by Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, whose reelection Daniels is challenging for a second time.
But the dissemination of the police reports, which SN&R obtained from both a local business owner and the City Clerk’s office, as well as the calls for Daniels’ censure, are coming from inside his city.
Daniels is currently dead last in his fifth bid to be elected sheriff of Sacramento County. There are still an estimated 240,000 ballots to be counted, but Daniels would need most of them to overtake his three opponents and hike his 5 percent showing in the race.
The ex-deputy ran a campaign based, in part, on his position that incumbent Jones presides over a department where female employees faced gender harassment and discrimination, culminating in one of the largest courtroom payouts in the department’s history.
But Daniels’ critics say he is no friend of the Me Too movement, and that his inability to take no for an answer make him unfit for public office.
On September 6, 2017, Lt. Turcotte reached the woman by phone and learned that she and Daniels dated almost 40 years ago in high school. The relationship ended in 1980, but Daniels refused to move on, the woman and a man who lived with the woman in 2008 told officers.
According to police reports, Daniels’ former girlfriend grew exasperated with his unwavering attention in October 2008. That’s when police interviewed the woman, a man who lived with her and a neighbor, all of whom described separate interactions with Daniels where he came off as intense and asked “invasive” questions about his old high school sweetheart.
According to police reports, all three told officers on separate occasions that Daniels would just show up at the house, including in his patrol vehicle back when he was a deputy, looking for the woman. The woman, Lt. Turcotte wrote, “has repeatedly told him not to contact her and finds his persistence ‘creepy.’ She is aware of other women, who formerly dated Mr. Daniels, that have also had similar experiences.”
The Sheriff’s Department fired Daniels in 2000 after investigating a complaint made by a different woman.
Daniels said the whole thing was a set-up to disgrace him, two years after he “ran a very aggressive campaign” against then-Sheriff Lou Blanas. A year later, in 1999, Daniels got himself elected to the newly incorporated Citrus Heights City Council, which didn’t yet have its own police department and so contracted those services through the Sheriff’s Department. Despite still being a working deputy—or maybe because of it—Daniels was sharply critical of the arrangement and led the effort to dump his employer’s services. It was “a very bitter fight,” Daniels told SN&R in February. A month later, he says, he was suspended from duty.
The version Daniels tells is that he asked a police officer in Arizona to help him track down a friend, didn’t get the information he requested, and instead learned of his friend’s whereabouts from her mother.
The department’s version of events is that he abused his authority to find a woman he liked.
The more recent complaints from 2008 and 2017 haven’t been previously reported.
Roseville police public information officer Rob Baquera confirmed to SN&R that officers responded to “a call for service” regarding Daniels’ email in August 2017.
“We determined from our end that it wasn’t a crime,” he said.
In a staff report dated June 7, Citrus Heights City Attorney Ruthann G. Ziegler wrote that Councilman Daniels’ “pattern of behavior and alleged conduct is not in accordance with the City of Citrus Heights’ core values and principles.”
Ziegler’s staff report explains that the rest of the Citrus Heights City Council only recently became aware of the more recent complaints against Daniels, partly due to a May 11, 2018, public records request.
“While the District Attorney’s Office and the Citrus Heights Police Department may encounter behavior that does not rise to the level of criminal conduct beyond a reasonable doubt, Citrus Heights elected officials choose to hold themselves to a higher standard,” Ziegler wrote.
Assistant City Manager Katherine Cooley said City Council members will be making their public statements on the censure action during the open session portion of tonight’s special meeting. Daniels promised to read a prepared statement as well.
This story has been updated with comments from Daniels and Cooley. Look for more updates in the June 14, 2018, issue of SN&R.