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May 4, 2012

Jason Simpson Harassment Complaint

Here's the Desert Sun article about the harassment complaint filed by Jason Simpson. The article says you can read the full document on line, but it provides no link to it. I've uploaded a copy of Jason Simpson's harassment complaint (1.3 MB, 17 pages) here. The complaint was filed December 31, 2011.

In the complaint Mr. Simpson stated that he did not feel safe coming to work any more.

Mr. Russell Betts ("Betts"), an elected City Council Member for the City of Desert Hot Springs, has engaged in an outrageous pattern of behavior repeatedly harassing staff into making decisions to his liking. It is obvious from the content, character, and repetitive nature of his actions, that Mr. Betts has engaged in a concerted, willful, deceptive and malicious campaign to smear, discredit and destroy the character and reputation of the City Manager, myself and others employed by the City by continuing to interfere, harass and whose conduct breaks laws. As an elected official, it appears his conduct is in direct defiance of numerous laws which are established to protect the very community he was elected to serve. Betts has done so to enrich his own business and to increase the value of his own personal properties without any care for who it impacts.
Mr. Betts is a bully. Betts is abusing his elected position to harass, annoy, influence, and has engaged in behavior that has invaded my work environment and personal privacy. Betts has abused, harassed, and humiliated myself and other coworkers for self-serving financial and political reasons contrary to the tenets of public service required of his elected position fo embody.

Mr. Simpson says that Mr. Betts referred to a vendor at Cabot's Pueblo Museum as Mr. Simpson's "girlfriend." Mr. Simpson is married.

It is critical that this City provide resources and access for businesses to develop or relocate here without interference. Any of us whom have been a public servant for any extended period of time have seen "inappropriate behavior" before, and the matters that follow here are no different, except they are escalating in duration, frequency and intensity.

Mr. Simpson lists 13 matters:

  1. Interference On Lease Agreement (Eye Doctor) - The city received an intent to lease 12075 Palm Drive from McFarland, the eye doctor currently at Palm & Pierson. Mr. Betts operates a business on the same block of Palm Drive. Mr. Betts advised McFarland to include a non-compete clause in the lease that would have meant no other eye doctor could open in the city. The intent would be to prevent Walmart from including optical and optometry services at its store.

  2. Interference On Lease Agreement (Restaurant) - The city's contract Economic Development Director, Mike Bracken, was meeting with Mr. Lee Morcus concerning the possibility of opening a restaurant in one of the RDA-owned buildings at Palm & Pierson. (Recall that Mr. Betts operates a business in that block of Palm Drive). Mr. Betts interrupted the meeting (which was taking place on the street) and asked what they were talking about. Mr. Morcus expressed an interest in converting the Visitor Center to a restaurant. "At that time Councilmember Betts told Mr. Morcus, if that is where you want to be then we (the city & staff) will make it happen." Mr. Bracken told Mr. Betts that the city would be about $950,000 out of pocket if a restaurant took that site. Mr. Betts responded "We have money if that is where the restaurant wants to go."

    In addition to the probable violation of Section 1090 Conflict Of Interest, Mr. Bracken said Mr. Betts's behavior was unprofessional and inappropriate.

    Mr. Simpson says that Mr. Bracken has "tens of millions of dollars in projects in the pipeline" and was key in obtaining a $3 million Department of Commerce grant for infrastructure improvements. But Mr. Bracken advised Mr. Simpson that he is considering discontinuing his services to the city in order to protect is personal reputation.

  3. Inappropriate Contact With City Vendor That Appears To Be A Section-1090 Violation, Political Reform Act Violation & Administrative Violation Of The City - NAI Capital is the city's broker for the Palm & Pierson properties. Mr. Betts contacted NAI Capital to suggest changes to a marketing brochure for the Palm & Pierson properties. This violates Section 1090 because of the business Mr. Betts has on that block of Palm Drive.

  4. Manipulation Of The 2011 RDA Plan Amendment Process - Marilyn Heidrick sent a detailed letter and analysis concerning the 2011 expansion of the RDA. It is Mr. Simpson's opinion that Ms. Heidrick could not have written that letter, and suggests Mr. Betts fed information to Ms. Heidrick.

    It was known that Mr. Betts owned 2 properties in Rancho Del Oro (where Ms. Heidrick lives). On November 30, 2011 (after the RDA expansion was approved, while excluding Rancho Del Oro), Mr Betts revealed that he had purchased 3 more properties in Rancho Del Oro. He had actually acquired one of the properties as early as February 2011. One of the properties had outstanding code violation fines of $20,000 when Mr. Betts acquired it, but within 4 to 6 weeks the fines were reduced to $3,000 to $4,000. Mr. Simpson wants that reviewed.

  5. Harassment And Threatened Retaliation Of An Employee - This entire section was redacted.

  6. Illegal Actions Committed By Leaking Closed Session Information To The Media And Members Of The Public - Mr. Simpson says Mr. Betts leaked information about the alarm company/Karl Baker matter to the Desert Sun; leaked closed session information as reported by Joe Duffle; made phone calls during council meetings and discussed closed session subjects including Sgt. Peary, Sgt. Sclafani, Officer Tapia, and Officer Valentich; leaked closed session information to Desert Sun reporter Kate McGinty in December 2011.

  7. Retaliation - for...
    • Refusing to redact/alter invoices for attorney bills for code enforcement regarding property owned by Mr. Betts.
    • Refusal to continue with "Enterprise Rental Car" city contract substituting with the city van in order to curtail the abuse of renting cars and not returning them timely.
    • Refusal to reimburse directly for expenses incurred for SCAG business.
    • Mr. Simpson says he was assaulted when he had staff adjust a mileage reimbursement check for a SCAG visit when he failed to offset commute miles.
    • For not releasing an incomplete report in October 2011 in response to media allegations about Pete Chryss and his business.


  8. Calls To JAS Pacific, Vendor Of The City, In Violation Of City Council Employment Agreement With The City Manager Richard Daniels - details to be provided later.

  9. Calls To Tri-Star Construction, Vendor Of The City, In Violation Of City Council Employment Agreement With The City Manager Richard Daniels - Specifically, he refers to Sunset Springs, and says he will provide further information later.

  10. Confession Of Potential Wrong-Doing -
    !n a September 2011 meeting with the City Manager, Russell Betts offered information on the upcoming election that "Dean Gray was going crazy and wanting him to 'go dirty' on the election campaign and that he needed to because Dean has more on me than I do on Karl Baker." I believe the comments were aimed to misdirect his involvement in what was to come related to the public humiliation Dean Gray did on Karl Baker, Pete Chryss, and now the City Manager, Police Chief and myself.


  11. Public Criticism On Local Hire When He Violates It Himself Willfully -
    Mr. Betts circumvented the purchasing process and secured his own business cards when he became Mayor Pro Tem from a business outside the Coachella Valley. Staff was in process on ordering but he had already done so. Mr. Betts also stated he did it because he had to have a "union" supporter logo on it.


  12. Public Criticism Of The City Manager With The Same Accusations We Has Himself Has Turned In Receipts For Drinking And Expensing Extravagant Meals (Ironically With Gabriel King As Planning Commissioner) - Information to come later, he says.

  13. Inappropriate Contact With The City Vendor That Operates The Senior Center During December 2011 - Information to come later.

Since submitting this complaint, Mr. Simpson's attorney said he realized the complaint needed to be refined. He also requested that the city suspend its investigation because (1) he has revisited his legal characterization of the workplace issues; (2) legal issues relating to Mr. Betts's conflicts of interest should be addressed prior to workplace issues; and (3) given the city's limited resources, he does not want to promote an unnecessary allocation of public funds.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | May 4, 2012 at 11:17 PM

Comments

I wouldn't touch this conversation with a 10 foot pole...

Posted by: Michael R. Burke at May 9, 2012 2:42:01 PM

While it's good to know there are still people fighting the good fight to free the world of the horrors of corporate trademark abuse, I think you've gotten completely off the subject of this post.

Posted by: Ron's Log at May 8, 2012 3:33:34 PM

Just a follow up on the Chryss Protective Service. I went to his website. Under his many compliments for job well done he makes it appear as if the the City of DHS recommends his business. I know my company would not approve if I allowed them to appear to endorse my security system because I use it at home. His heading for that endorsement is under Municipal / Government so there is no mistaking the city appears to be endorsing his company. If Karl did not sign those checks in question then by deductive reasoning he or someone associated with his company may have signed them since the money did end up with his company as you wrote here. Though not a crime as you wrote it does seem to be an "a puzzlement". I also noticed he has a CNN logo on his main page almost giving the appearance of that corporation recommending his business. So I did call their CNN HLN to make them aware of this situation.

Posted by: Mike Criss at May 8, 2012 2:52:13 PM

Focusing on the clock? I thought we were talking about the DHS City Council. I don't pay any attention to other city councils, so if you're attending some other city council where they rush through the meeting I have no opinion on that.

Posted by: Ron's Log at May 8, 2012 1:40:26 PM

Ron with all I read about the Chryss security situation and it's relationship with Karl Baker. I feel IMHO their may have been a coverup about Karl's involvement in the Chryss situation (To many unanswered questions, forged signature thing and why and who's account it went to?). Just like what you express here is your opinion and not fact. As for what I written about my disappointment of city council not asking the questions that should be asked at city council meetings on agenda items before approving or disapproving them because they focus in on the clock rather than the issues before them.

Posted by: Mike Criss at May 8, 2012 1:04:53 PM

Okay, so now you understand my explanation of how a check gets deposited in a bank account is not anything like a cover up.

You are not the first person to say that only Mr. Betts does anything good for the city, and all four other city council members are less than competent. (Who the hell elected those other four?) My question is how has anything good been accomplished in the last four years? Is it because we have such a good staff?

If you would give me a list of 4-1 votes, where time has proven Mr. Betts right and the others wrong, then there might be something specific to discuss.

Posted by: Ron's Log at May 8, 2012 9:03:39 AM

"A cover up consists of things like destruction of evidence or lying to the authorities." Exactly.

As for your other representations on Mr. Simpsons "matters" or "items" they all seem to me to be exaggerations. While watching the city council meetings Mr. Simpson seemed to be distressed by any inquiry made by Mr. Sanchez or Mr. Betts. Which I found odd. I would think someone who is compensated as well as he was would be on his game and know the answers to the questions they asked. Again my point is Mr. Simpson seems bothered by the fact Mr. Betts was not blindly excepting staffs reports or suggestions without looking at the issues himself. Something I would expect all my council members to do. If they had done this then the past economic mistakes would not have happened. Again that is why Russ Betts received most votes this past election. I did read Jason's perceptions of the issues and no I don't feel they rise to the level of removing Mr. Betts from office. I still haven't heard his response to these public accusations. Maybe he will write a response to them in the local newspaper or respond to this at the next meeting. Since these accusations are out in the public I would hope he does respond soon rather than later. So the city can move past this. As a working tax paying citizen who can not attend all the meetings and study sessions I want someone like Russ Betts who will keep an eye on how the city spends it's money and does it's business. Actually, ideally I would like five Russ Betts up there on the council dais. It bothers me that most of the goals of the majority council is to rush things through during city meetings with little or no discussion of the issues. This process has led to many "eggs on their faces moments" to paraphrase Jan Pye from a past council meeting.

Posted by: Mike Criss at May 7, 2012 10:11:19 PM

When you say "spending 1.5 million on a building without actually doing a proper structural inspection," I think you might be suggesting the Temple purchase, but the RDA didn't pay $1.5 million for the Temple and Jan Pye wasn't on the council when that was approved. But you say you pay close attention to the city council, so you must mean some other purchase that must be slipping my mind right now.

Posted by: Ron's Log at May 7, 2012 9:55:38 PM

I don't understand how explaining that no crime was committed is a cover up. A cover up consists of things like destruction of evidence or lying to the authorities.

Posted by: Ron's Log at May 7, 2012 8:53:17 PM

As for the FPPC, do you know for a fact that the city hasn't sent that matter to the FPPC? I don't know if investigations that are currently underway at FPPC are public info or not, but why not ask them if they have one going on? Is your main concern that the city sent it to FPPC or that the FPPC is investigating? I don't think the FPPC has to wait to hear from cities on issues like this. You or anyone could forward Jason Simpson's report on the checks paid to Pete Chryss to FPPC.

I don't understand your question about the items in Mr. Simpson's complaint. Are you just concerned about terminology? Mr. Simpson called them "matters." I called them "items." Did someone call them "issues?" Does it matter? There are 13. Have you read the complaint? Did you read my summary of it? What's your question?

I don't know if your basic point is that none of what Mr. Simpson says is true, or that none of it matters, or what. But we've got an assistant city manager and finance director making some serious accusations against a sitting city council member. The accusations can be ignored or they can be investigated. Ignoring them is what a city like Vernon or Bell would have done. Investigate them and if none of them turn out to be a concern, then DHS looks great.

Posted by: Ron's Log at May 7, 2012 8:46:46 PM

"If the person to whom the check is payable (Pete Chryss) receives the proceeds of the check, then no crime was committed, regardless of who signed whose names on the back." Too funny, sounds like a cover up. Again I ask why the city did not bring this obvious issue to the FPPC.
"Mr. Betts' style is to do it like a bull in a china shop, with lights, cameras, and dramatic music." talk about an example of hyperbolic statement.
I do pay close attention to the city council meetings have been watching them for years in person and on TV and now on their website. Unfortunately Jan Pye has allowed things to be rubber stamped without questioning cost or the details of contracts. Such as the the infamous Wellness Festival contract that allowed pay without actually providing a concert or spending 1.5 million on a building without actually doing a proper structural inspection and the list goes on. Unfortunately even the "bull in a china shop" can't keep up with all the city staff dishes out to city council for approval. I along with a large majority of the voters prefer Mr. Betts doing what he is doing. That is why he received the most votes during the past election.
Ron you wrote "If you look again at the complaint from Mr. Simpson, you'll see that only two of the items appear to actually involve Mr. Simpson directly." Yet you label it as "Mr. Simpson lists 13 matters" What is it then 13 issues or "matters" Mr. Simpson has or not?

Posted by: Mike Criss at May 7, 2012 6:49:06 PM

The checks were payable Pete Chryss' security company and they were mailed to Karl Baker's address because that's also Pete Chryss' address.

If the person to whom the check is payable (Pete Chryss) receives the proceeds of the check, then no crime was committed, regardless of who signed whose names on the back.

You ask me why Pete Chryss was paid $300 by Karl Baker's campaign, as disclosed by Karl Baker's 460 statement. I'd suggest asking Karl Baker, but I would guess it was because Pete Chryss did something or provided something for the campaign and Mr. Baker paid him for it.

In your earlier comment you suggested that Mr. Betts was only asking questions. I called his offer to let the developer have the Vistor Center site "negotiating." You don't like the word negotiating. Fine, okay. You pick the word. A rose by any other name. It looks like a violation of the law to me.

I think that if you pay close attention to the city council, you would see that everyone on the council pays attention to how the city spends its money. But Mr. Betts' style is to do it like a bull in a china shop, with lights, cameras, and dramatic music. Those who don't like to sit through tedious city council meetings will readily see the flash, but overlook the dull details of council watchfulness. Mayor Pro Tem Pye is probably the best example of the opposite Mr. Betts' flashiness. She's got a laser eye on the fine details of what staff is doing, but she uses no dramatic flourishes. She can say in five words what Mr. Betts can't get out in five paragraphs.

If you look again at the complaint from Mr. Simpson, you'll see that only two of the items appear to actually involve Mr. Simpson directly. All of the accusations should be confirmable or refutable by an investigation. There may have been an investigation. We do not have the full story at all. The complaint and a letter from his attorney asking to suspend an investigation is all that came back from a request for "all documents relating to" Mr. Simpson's resignation or termination. There are probably other documents that the city is not required to make public. We don't know what we don't know.

Posted by: Ron's Log at May 7, 2012 4:45:20 PM

Ron I was talking about it not being reported to the FPPC. The checks were mailed to Karl's home address. If they were forged then by who and who's account were they deposited into? Who's fingerprints were on the checks? Also why was Pete associated with Karl's campaign and paid $300.00 I obtained this from an old article about the the Pete and Karl situation "From the Facebook and the Baker election website it appears that Pete is the only person working on or for Baker’s campaign. Listed on Baker’s 460 Campaign Disclosure Statement, Pete Chryss is described as a consultant paid just $300.00."
As for the issue of the checks being forged that sounds like the DA has dropped the ball if this is true. Since no one has been charged for it.
I would hardly call the quotes in Mr. Brackens e-mail as negotiating for the city. I would call the quote "tens of millions of dollars in projects in the pipeline" hyperbole along with the many other adjectives and adverbs he uses.
I would think that Jason was threatened by Mr. Betts because he was the only council member looking into the details of how the city is spending it's money and making sure it was done appropriately. The rest of the council would rather blindly rubber stamp these items. That's how poor spending happens such as the Wellness Festival that never happened.

Posted by: Mike Criss at May 7, 2012 4:17:23 PM

In general, a city council member is expected to ask questions about potential deals with RDA. But the law assumes a potential conflict of interest when that council member has property or a business within 500 feet of that RDA property. Mr. Betts has that hair salon on Palm between Pierson and Acoma. That hair salon is the reason he has had to recuse himself from every discussion and every vote on the downtown RDA project - unless it came down to drawing straws to make sure there were 3 council members to vote.

If he had only been asking questions, one could easily brush it aside as only a technical violation, but according that email from Mr. Bracken, Councilmember Betts went well beyond questions and was negotiating with the potential developer.

"When the original author of the complaints seems to want to withdraw them."
? incomplete sentence.

Nothing has come of the Karl Baker scandal because nothing was there. The DA has dropped it, but the DA never issues a press release saying "There was no crime here." The signatures on the backs of those checks were not made by Mr. Baker himself.

Posted by: Ron's Log at May 7, 2012 1:30:55 PM

Ron seriously a city council member is not allowed to ask questions about a potential deal with RDA property? Also I find it odd that Russ who has been a vocal critic of the misdealings of city hall and city council members is having these overly exaggerated complaints forwarded to the FPPC. When the original author of the complaints seems to want to withdraw them. Why hasn't the city of DHS to this date still have not forwarded there findings to the FPPC of apparent misbehavior of Karl Baker (your friend) in references to Security scandal and checks apparently cashed by him from the city.

Posted by: Mike Criss at May 7, 2012 10:54:15 AM

Hyperbole.

Mr. Simpson's complaint is clearly not "hyperbole."

OTOH, his complaint is incomplete, partly unsubstantiated, and could have benefited from a review by an English major (I'm always available!).

When he asked to have his complaint withdrawn (via his attorney) the attorney said that the complaint was written without the advice of attorney.

But just look at the report from Michael Bracken and ignore all the rest of the complaint. Mr. Bracken's email raises an issue that could interfere with economic development. A potential investor doesn't like to find himself swept into a conflict of interest situation.

Posted by: Ron's Log at May 7, 2012 5:54:32 AM

If one wants to find a working definition for hyperbole they just need to read these accusations. It maybe the reason Jason Simpson seems to have backpedaled on his claims.

Posted by: Mike Criss at May 6, 2012 10:29:28 PM

Suddenly a lot of things have become much clearer. I figured Betts was slimey, but this goes way above and beyond. I'm no fan of Simpson and his arrogance, but many of these accusations are clearly very damaging to Betts. The "meltdown" was obviously a result of this pending issue. IMO Betts and Sanchez have an agenda that doesn't involve improving this city, and they both should be watched very closely. Charlie E? Are you really that clueless?

Posted by: Nate at May 6, 2012 10:03:57 PM

You have heard other city staff make similar complaints, accusing Councilmember Betts of possible conflict of interest violations, assault, retaliation, etc. and your conclusion is that all of city staff is wrong?! Again, I think you need to check your eyeglasses.

Posted by: Ron's Log at May 6, 2012 8:26:22 AM

Sorry, Ron, but I only have my own interactions with other city staff to go on. I have heard similar comments and complaints from city staff about my own involvement with the city, mainly because I had the effrontery to criticize the actions of staff directly to the city council when staff refused to acknowledge questions and requests.

The amazing thing is that you haven't seen it! You have reported and helped expose similar problems with the city, but have somehow remained on good terms with them. You haven't been thrown out of Rick's office too?

Posted by: Charlie E at May 6, 2012 7:21:31 AM

Wow, Charlie E., it seems you've read this through some very strange glasses. The three possible conflict of interest violations that are listed - how do you see those as "legitimate business interests?" They don't involve any accusations of reproach or criticism.

Leaking closed session information to the Desert Sun - how does that fit in with your comment?

The direct contacts with JAS and Tri-Star? What personal attack is there?

I think you need to go back and re-read the complaint.

The only accusations that involve direct interactions between Mr. Simpson and Mr. Betts are (5) the redacted harassment and retaliation item, and (7) the retaliation list (including an assault). We don't have enough information here to really know what happened in those cases. But you, with your powerful mind-reading skills, have been able to delve to their depths, formed an opinion that the complaints are invalid, and gone beyond that to tell us that all of city staff feels the same way as Mr. Simpson. I don't know why you read anything when you can simply divine the truth on your own.

Posted by: Ron's Log at May 5, 2012 9:42:36 AM

Very interesting, and about what I would have expected from our city's staff. For some reason, they seem to have formed the opinion that their actions were sacrosanct, that they were above reproach or criticism. ANY criticism or involvement in city policies is considered a personal attack, even if they are legitimate business interests.

Posted by: Charlie E at May 5, 2012 4:59:00 AM

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