In September, convicted pipe bomb murderer Porfirio Duarte-Herrera escaped a Nevada prison. His escape went unnoticed, or unreported, for about four days before law enforcement and the public were made aware that there was a dangerous fugitive on the loose.
In the end, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department under Sheriff Joe Lombardo, Republican candidate for Governor, captured Duarte-Herrera as he attempted to board a shuttle to the Mexico border. And, the community celebrated.
Meet Joe! @JoeLombardoNV with @NikkiHaley addresses crowd about the capture of an escaped prison fugitive in Nevada.
And, Nevadans finally get to celebrate it properly! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 pic.twitter.com/vUx6wLZ9Ft
— BrutalBrittany💕 (@BrutalBrittany2) September 30, 2022
As Lombardo and LVMPD’s latest victory for public safety was celebrated, not long after they arrested then-sitting public official and Governor Sisolak appointee Robert Telles for the open murder of a journalist, Sisolak demanded the resignation of Nevada Department of Corrections Director, Charles Daniels.
Today, I requested and received Nevada Department of Corrections Director Charles Daniels’ resignation, effective immediately. William Gittere, the deputy director of operations, will serve as the acting director for the department, effective immediately.
— Governor Sisolak (@GovSisolak) September 30, 2022
I was not losing sleep over the resignation of Daniels. I have covered other issues at NDOC, from staff reports of a hostile work environment (likely amid Sisolak’s pressures to force-vaccinate already dwindling staff), lack of procedural guidelines for use of restraint devices, and processing issues with inmate grievances and use-of-force reviews. I criticized early pandemic policies that denied inmates of opting to wear a medical mask, while NDOC employees were photographed masked up. I criticized the fact that civil rights group Return Strong’s calls for early inmate release including geriatric parole, went unanswered while Nevada’s prisons would put up the third highest Covid fatality rate in the nation.
The Department was also responsible for stockpiling Hydroxychloroquine, which the Governor had made unavailable for new prescriptions made by outpatient physicians. The issues at NDOC are systemic; I didn’t even bother to report the time Daniels closed the low-security conservation camp facilities in Ely and failed to notify the legislature of it. I didn’t report that fact, because I gave Daniels the benefit of the doubt that he made the best decision given the circumstance with a focus on staff and inmate safety. But, he should have given notice.
Given the severity of the issues, I am not ready to let Daniels off the hook for the Department’s failure under his tenure. Yet, I did blame the Governor, firstly. Sisolak is on the Board of Prison Commissioners, the Department is squarely in his purview, and he did not ask a single question in the January meeting regarding the dangerously low staffing numbers.
Now, Daniels wants his good name and reputation returned and has come out as a whistleblower for ethical violations from the governor’s office.
Former Nevada Department of Corrections Director Charles Daniels holding a press conference.
This is the first time he is speaking publicly since he resigned at the request of Governor Steve Sisolak after the escape of a convicted murderer.@8NewsNow
Beginning of presser ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/rF4vibsbP3
— Vanessa_Murphy (@Vanessa_Murphy) November 4, 2022
Daniels claimed in a press conference on Friday morning that a representative from the governor’s office wanted him to change the timeline regarding Duarte-Herrera’s escape after the inmate was captured, but he refused and filed a whistleblower complaint. Daniels said,
“I was not going to change or add information that was not factual, I did not cover up anything. The governor’s office sought to prevent the facts of this incident ever being made public.”
Daniels claims that he was later told that he would be fired if he did not resign. Daniels also claims that defamatory statements about him have been made and that Sisolak’s statements suggested that there was a cover-up taking place over the inmate escape. Daniels said,
“A false narrative previously communicated by the governor and his staff enabled egregious statements to be published. I was accused of not informing law enforcement of the escape of Porfirio Duarte Herrera… Governor Sisolak publicly suggested that he had concerns there was a cover-up to hide that escape.”
While Daniels was accompanied by legal counsel during the press conference the governor’s office claims that a lawsuit has not been filed and is accusing Daniels of demanding $1 million dollars after his resignation.
Sisolak’s Chief of Staff, Yvanna Cancela, issued a statement:
Earlier this week, the Governor’s Office received a demand letter from an attorney representing former NDOC Director, Charles Daniels. In the letter, he demands more than $1,000,000 in taxpayer funds for what he felt was an unjust ending to his time as Director. Daniels made clear in his communication that he is motivated by the upcoming and nationally watched election. The letter states that, should the Office not meet his demand within two business days, his intention is to hold a press conference.
Cancela alludes to the whistleblower complaint while stating that if the investigation determines wrong-doing on behalf of the governor’s office staff, they will “vigorously defend” against it:
Daniels has formally alleged hostility from a member of my staff. The complaint was forwarded to the appropriate agency as required by law, and that agency engaged an independent third party to conduct an investigation. The investigation and its findings are legally confidential. Should any further legal action be taken, we will vigorously defend against those claims.
It’s my opinion that the Governor and Daniels were both responsible for NDOC… Actually, that’s a fact. But, just as I gave Daniels the benefit of the doubt when he closed the Ely conservation camp, I am willing to lend an ear to his whistleblower allegations. Can I imagine Sisolak or his office, right after he had to remove Telles from the position he appointed him to because he was arrested for murder, seeking to pad public perception of another murderer escaping, amid his re-election campaign? Yes, I can imagine that scenario.
In the meantime, the heroes in this situation were Sheriff Joe Lombardo, LVMPD, and the journalists and civilians who got the escapee’s information to the public. Lombardo is the person who should be tasked with the reforms at NDOC, and frankly, the county detention center under his department does not have the massive issues ascribed to the state prison system. He already does a better job.
Public safety is on the ballot in Nevada and it’s in Lombardo’s platform. The answer to addressing those issues is to make Joe Lombardo our next Governor.