By David L. Johnson and Colin Walsh
New documents obtained through a Public Records Act request reveal that City of Davis Councilman Dan Carson violated two City of Davis policies when he sent numerous campaign emails from his publicly-funded city email account concerning Measure H, a ballot measure to approve the DiSC development project.
New documents from the city also reveal that all emails Carson sent in 2022 regarding measure H appear to have been deleted from his city account.
From March through May 2022, Carson sent at least 15 emails from his city account regarding political activities including one offensive email, each a violation of the city’s “Electronic Communication and Voice Mail Policy” and “Improper Use of E-Mail.” The policy states:
“The sending of harassing, discriminatory or offensive e-mails, not limited to race, color, gender, religion, handicap, or sexual preference is prohibited. The use of e-mail for religious or political activities, copyright infringement, personal gain, solicitation, or in support of illegal activities is also prohibited. The discovery of employee misuse of e-email may lead to cancellation of the violator’s electronic mail account and may be grounds for disciplinary action up to and including termination.” (Our emphasis).
An additional section of the policy states: “(Emails) must not be used for the expression of ill will or bias against individuals or groups…”
On April 7, 2022, Carson sent a city email to a Davis resident about Measure H with the following message:
“One leading opponent I am told said UC Davis students should have to live in Vacaville instead of Davis and commute by train. This guy gets to live in one of the nicest areas of Davis on a home with his mother. Talk about entitlement.”
The mother in question is 83 years old, requires a wheel chair or a walker, has blood pressure and cancer-related medical issues and cannot live on her own. The mother’s son, who opposed Measure H, compassionately lives with his mother to provide elder care.
Carson also violated the city’s written policy concerning electronic communications when he signed a March 27, 2022, email with a campaign statement, as follows:
Councilmember Dan Carson
Yes on Measure H Campaign”
According to the city’s policy: “Employee e-mail signatures may contain only business information, such as job title and contact information.”
The following is Carson’s March 27, 2022, email and an enlargement of his city email and signature:
Based on our third request under the Public Records Act to the city, all of Carson’s outgoing emails concerning Measure H from January through September 29, 2022, are now no longer available. A representative of the city indicated, “The City of Davis does not have any records responsive to your request.”
The authors of this article are in possession of numerous 2022 Carson campaign emails, sent from Carson’s city email account, about Measure H that were previously provided to us from the city. It appears someone, or some event, may have deleted these outgoing messages from Carson’s city email account after our initial press release or related information was made public. When presented with this information at the October 18 City Council meeting Carson made no comment.
We previously reported that in a series of 15 emails improperly sent over several months from his publicly-funded City of Davis email account, Councilmember Dan Carson:
- Campaigned for the Yes on H 2022 ballot measure to approve the Davis Innovation Sustainability Campus (DiSC) development project,
- Sent an invitation to multiple persons for a Yes on H campaign kick-off event to be held at his home,
- Sent emails defending his private lawsuit against Davis residents who wrote ballot arguments against Measure H, even though his lawsuit had nothing to do with city business,
- Provided information to DiSC developer Dan Ramos and Ramos’s campaign associates and attorneys about No on H advocates sending campaign information to city commissions,
- Invited Congressman Mike Thompson for a Yes on H briefing about “this important project,”
Carson’s emails were obtained based on a Public Records Act request to the City of Davis. Carson sent these emails, including one message that in all probability was a mass mailing for a campaign “kick-off” event at Carson’s home, from his City of Davis account, either advocating for Measure H or defending his private lawsuit.
It is a violation of Government Code Section 8314 for any elected local officer to use public resources for a campaign activity or personal purposes, except for incidental and minimal use of those public resources.
Link to previous story: Carson Used City Resources for Measure H Campaign
David L. Johnson worked 20 years as a manager of legislation and public information for a state agency in Sacramento. Now retired, he works from time to time as a free-lance journalist in Davis.
Colin Walsh has worked as a litigation consultant for 20 years, is the chair of the City of Davis Tree Commission and has been involved in Davis politics off-and-on since 1988.