Guest Commentary: More Problems with Carson’s City Emails – Councilmember Carson Violated Two City Policies Using City Resources for Campaign Emails

Councilmember Dan Carson

By David L. Johnson and Colin Walsh

New documents obtained through a Public Records Act request reveal that City of Davis Councilmember 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.

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.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Ron Glick

    Post Hilary Clinton I don’t think anyone cares about this stuff but I get that with ballots in the hands of voters its silly season. Hey it worked for Trump and it worked for Putin so maybe it will work for Walsh and Johnson. Yawn.

    1. Bill Marshall

      And the candidate they are likely trying to promote, by trying the “take-down” of the incumbent…

      This sniffs just like Partida hit-piece… “much ado about nothing”… or, ‘making a mountain (think Sierras) out of a molehill’… there are definite links between the author(s) of each of the ‘hit-pieces’, and one of the candidates… almost like a ‘club’.

      Ironically, all are part of creating a “toxic environment”…

  2. Keith Y Echols

    This crap is absolutely moronic.  I’m no fan of Carson’s political actions (though I probably politically align with him).  He deserves to face the consequences of his poor political decisions regarding Measure H.  

    But this continued flood of garbage put out there by the No Growth; Magical Mystical Infill Crowd is getting ridiculous.


    Well duh!  Carson was upfront about that.  The Council new what he was doing.  I believe the Council supported Measure H.  It’s obvious that they were fine with Carson taking the lead.  So what’s the big freakin deal if Carson used city emails that shows he represented both the council and the developer?

    This is what the No On Everything But Magical Infill do not understand.  To get anything done of significance: THE CITY HAS TO WORK WITH IT’S BUSINESS PARTNERS.  No the No boo birds only know how to oppose outsiders.  They view everyone suspiciously.  The very concept of a partnership between the city and potential incoming developers/business reeks of collusion and “shilling”.  It appears their stance is to fight with developers/business for the things they want (or don’t want) instead of trying to work with them for a mutually beneficial (or mutually unsatisfying) agreement.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Only a slightly different flavor of crap than what the same folk have aimed @ Partida… smells the same…

      And the VG “enables” it… without questioning it, ‘calling it out’… whatever… “sells papers” (generates “hits”), as WRH might say… we need a new term, perhaps “yellow-dog bloggyism”…

      A certain ‘club’ has gone from education, information, advocacy for their values, to “dirty politics”… but dirt is earth, right (organic?)?  At least, the local group of the ‘club’.

    2. Richard_McCann

      Keith E

      A Councilmember working in a partnership for mutual non personal gain is quite reasonable. But the question here is whether a Councilmember should be able to promote a partisan electoral campaign by using an electronic communication medium provided to them through the means of incumbency? The law says “no.” In addition, this conduct was in direct contradiction given by City Staff and counsel to appointed Commission members about the type of communication that is allowable under the Brown Act. According to them, what happened could have put any City decision on this issue open to reversal through a lawsuit. The Staff is more than welcome to change this interpretation of what is allowed under the Brown Act, but as it currently stands there’s a contradiction happening that is troubling.

  3. Dave Hart

    This article is right out of the Trump campaign political play book.  The authors are bringing the culture war home to Davis.  The ironic thing is, some of the challengers might have offered a real election choice except for their deafening silences on the kind of support evidenced in this article.  The enemy of my enemy is not only not my friend, but sometimes just another enemy.

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