Former Nev. prisons chief demands $1M after 'unjust ending' to his tenure

Charles Daniels said he filed whistleblower and hostile work environment complaints before resigning


By Casey Harrison
Las Vegas Sun

LAS VEGAS — Former Nevada Department of Corrections Director Charles Daniels allegedly demanded $1 million for what he called an "unjust ending" to his tenure after resigning after a prisoner walk away in September, according to Gov. Steve Sisolak's office.

In a statement, Sisolak's chief of staff, Yvanna Cancela, accused Daniels and his attorney of being motivated to demand a taxpayer-funded severance in light of the "upcoming and nationally watched" election.

Sisolak, a Democrat nearing the end of his first term, is fending off Republican challenger Joe Lombardo, and several recent polls showing the race could be a tossup.

"Earlier this week, the Governor's Office received a demand letter from an attorney representing former NDOC Director, Charles Daniels," Cancela said in the statement. "The letter states that, should the office not meet his demand within two business days, his intention is to hold a press conference."

Cancela said she directed counsel to ask for more time to review the letter, and Daniels' attorney agreed to two more days, after which he would go to the press if an "acceptable offer" was not made.

No legal action has been filed by Daniels.

The letter, penned by Daniels' attorney, Craig Marquiz, said the governor made Daniels a scapegoat, which "wrongfully" forced Daniels to resign "or otherwise face immediate termination," according to a copy obtained by the Sun.

"Tellingly, Governor Sisolak's politically-motivated actions directly contradict the State of Nevada's prior treatment of DOC Directors following prisoner escapes and/or riots at FOC facilities.

"... As a direct, proximate and forseeable result, Charles has been humiliated, ridiculed and unnecessarily victimized — reputational harm which will be addressed publicly in the coming days if an amicable resolution and severance cannot be achieved."

Cancela said his termination was solely related to "serious performance issues" that reached a breaking point after convicted murderer Porfirio Duarte-Herrera escaped from a prison in Indian Springs on Sept. 23, leading to a dayslong search before he was apprehended attempting to take a bus to Mexico.

"The Governor's Office and the state will not have this matter politicized," Cancela said. "Furthermore, the office will not be intimidated or extorted for opportunistic financial gain."

State officials were not made aware of Duarte-Herrera's escape until days after he left prison grounds. Cancela said Daniels and the department engaged in a "major failure of basic security and protocols," and said she believed an inmate count wasn't conducted before Duarte-Herrera walked away.

Cancela said Daniels and the department engaged in a "major failure of basic security and protocols," and said she believed that an inmate count wasn't conducted before Duarte-Herrera walked away.

Cancela also addressed in her statement an allegation that a member of her staff was hostile toward Daniels. His complaint was forwarded to the appropriate agency, and an outside investigation was conducted, she said.

Cancela did not disclose what the findings of that probe yielded.

"I can confidently say our team member acted with professionalism and managed a chaotic situation with the utmost composure and competence," she said. "Should any further legal action be taken, we will vigorously defend against those claims."

Cancela said neither she nor Sisolak would provide additional comment.

Reading a statement to reporters on Friday, Daniels said he was forced to resign after the walk away and that he was pressured to change the timeline of events by a staffer for Sisolak's administration.

He did not take questions afterward, according to media that covered the event.

According to the letter sent by Daniels' attorney, the purpose of the press conference was to "rehabilitate his (Daniels') reputation through a disclosure of the truth of Nevada's prison systems, his repeated requests to Governor Sisolak for necessary funding to address DOC worker safety and inmate health concerns, and the truth regarding the timing/circumstances of Governor Sisolak's knowledge of the underlying escape."

The letter also states the $1 million figure was determined because Daniels planned to stay in that post until ultimately retiring in about seven years. If he retained his salary of $150,000, the total amount of compensation in that time would amount to $1,050,000.

The letter was sent to officials on Oct. 28 and requested an initial response no later than 5 p.m. Nov. 1.

Daniels also said he filed whistleblower and hostile work environment complaints before resigning.

Former NDOC deputy director William Gittere has been running the department since Daniels' departure.

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