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Jarrell city manager accuses council members of harassment, discrimination

In a formal complaint, Danielle Singh said one council member inappropriately touched her and made several infantilizing comments about her.

JARRELL, Texas — Jarrell's city manager has accused several city council members of sexual harassment and discrimination based on her gender in a formal complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In the complaint, City Manager Danielle Singh alleges that since she started in her position last June, multiple male council members have treated her as though she is lesser because she is a woman. 

"It seems as though women in local government in Jarrell have to work twice as hard to get half as much credit as our male counterparts," Singh wrote in the complaint.

Jarrell Mayor Patrick Sherek said that he was aware of Singh's concerns about city council members' actions long before she filed the complaint. 

“It’s the way they speak to our city manager – directing her to do things that are potentially illegal and also using inappropriate language and actions by certain council members,” Sherek said. 

Specifically, Singh detailed several incidents when Councilmember Jeff Seidel made infantilizing comments about her and at least one instance when he allegedly inappropriately touched her. She also stated that there were multiple instances when Councilmember Daniel Islas told her she was not his choice for city manager because she had a family. She also stated that Councilmember Adam Marsh called her reports of harassment by the other two men "childlike."

Sherek said he has witnessed the alleged harassment on several occasions. 

“Councilmember Sidel – we’ve addressed his behavior on numerous occasions. Our city employees do not like touching and going to be hugged,” Sherek said. “I can personally attest that at a Chamber of Commerce meeting where I was doing a speech, he walked into the building and intentionally went up to two city employees – both females – and gave them hugs. I could see their discomfort.” 

Sherek also said Councilmember Islas threatened Singh with legal action on one occasion over a tank installed at a lift station near his home. He said Islas said there could be legal ramifications if it was not removed.  

Sherek said there have been multiple private and public attempts to address the problems, and nothing has changed. 

“I put council members on the agenda to try and discuss it as a whole council, to figure out how to proceed moving forward and to stop those actions from continuing,” he said. “[Singh] felt that, given time and showing that she can do the job, that the council members would start acting better. But, unfortunately, that is not the case.”

Sherek said these council members have tried to make Singh's employment status an agenda item at meetings several times. 

“I feel that's what caused her to actually file a complaint – because she feared for her job and her livelihood,” Sherek said. 

On May 4, Sherek responded to Singh's EEOC complaint filing on social media, calling it "deeply concerning" with the "potential for a multi-million-dollar lawsuit" against the city. The mayor said the council will discuss the matter during its meeting on Tuesday, May 7. Sherek said he wants the discussion to be conducted in open session to "ensure transparency and allow for public participation."

“One reason why I put the city council as an executive session item is to highlight their behaviors because the voters of this town can not make a change if they don't know the actions of their elected officials,” Sherek told KVUE.

Kaplan Law Firm, Singh's attorneys, shared a statement with KVUE that read in part:

"We are proud to support Danielle Singh in her efforts to stop harassment and discrimination.  Our client is a highly successful City Manager, but unfortunately was harassed, discriminated against, and retaliated against – all of which threaten to derail her quality work.  She first raised these issues to the City, and unfortunately nothing changed. 

So, she took the next legal steps toward finally putting an end to sexual harassment and gender discrimination at City Hall in Jarrell, so that she and all other women can have a workplace free from sexual harassment, and so women in Jarrell will have the same opportunity to succeed at their jobs as their male counterparts."

Sherek said he has been assured by attorneys that there was been no evidence so far of any wrongdoing by Singh. He said he hopes to address people at the meeting. 

“I'm a big, big supporter of hers. Everything that she's done for the city has been great things [that] I never expected her to be able to do in her short time here. For them to try and get rid of her, I think would be a big harm to this city,” he said. 

Sherek said he knows three council members want to remove Singh from her position. 

“I'm under the assumption it would take four members on the council to fire her on the spot. But if only three members want to separate with Singh, they would have to give her a notice and then we'd have to hold another meeting, which is a hearing to let her argue her side of the story,” he said. 

KVUE reached out to all council members for comment. 

Councilman Adam Marsh, whom Singh cites in the complaint, said in a statement that he cannot comment on the allegations, which he believes are "hearsay." He said the situation is complex, and he hopes the truth will come out at Tuesday night's meeting. 

Credit: Jessica Cha
Photo by KVUE's Jessica Cha.

Details on Singh's allegations

Singh states in the EEOC complaint that early last July, Councilmember Seidel told her she needed to be a "sweet girl" and that she shouldn't cuss because cussing was for men. A few days later, Seidel again allegedly called Singh a "sweet girl" and told her she could not "hang" with the men.

In early August, Singh claims that Councilmember Islas told her at a recorded public meeting that she was not his first choice for city manager because she has a family. Singh said Islas did not express the same concern for male employees with families.

In late August, Singh states that another city employee reported to Singh that while she was having lunch with her wife, Seidel approached them at their booth and placed his leg up on the bench, exposing his privates to them.

Also in late August, while interviewing a potential police chief candidate, Singh states that Islas asked a female candidate if she had any kids and later complained after she got the job that she was being paid too much. Singh said that Islas did not make similar complaints about the woman's male counterparts. 

One day after that interview, Singh states that Islas again told her she was not his choice for city manager because she has a family.

In the complaint, Singh also details multiple incidents of alleged inappropriate conduct by Seidel throughout the month of October 2023. In one instance, Seidel told her to wear "play clothes" to a site visit. Then on the day of that visit, instead of going directly to the site, Seidel allegedly drove Singh to his house, where he and his wife both kept commenting on how beautiful she was, "making specific comments about my lipstick and how a 'candy corn man' decoration they had at the house thought I was pretty," Singh writes.

On Halloween, Seidel allegedly invited Singh and her husband to dinner via text. Singh says Seidel told her to let him know if she could go "so the men could set it up" and told her to contact her mother to babysit. Singh did not respond. The following day, Seidel allegedly texted Singh a picture of the "candy corn man" decoration that he said thought Singh was pretty, before again asking Singh to dinner. Singh told Seidel that her parents weren't available to babysit and suggested that they could schedule lunch instead of dinner.

One day after that exchange, Seidel allegedly texted Singh another picture of the decoration and complained that she continued to cancel lunch, suggesting that they could reschedule and asking that Singh and her husband come to his house for lunch.

Later in November, during a council swearing in ceremony, Seidel allegedly rubbed his hands up and down Singh's back while she was trying to discuss the meeting order with Mayor Sherek. Both the municipal clerk and chief of police commented on the inappropriateness of Seidel's touching, according to the EEOC complaint.

One day after that incident, on a work phone call, Singh stated that Seidel called her "kiddo" numerous times and told her that he loved her.

Also, toward the end of November, Seidel allegedly said in a recorded online meeting with a software company that the city of Jarrell, "is technologically a virgin. You can do anything you want to it."

In December, Singh says Seidel called her and started the conversation by saying, "Listen here, young lady," before demeaning her work. Then, in January 2024, after a city meeting, Seidel allegedly called Singh and another employee "girls" and asked if they were "ever going to hire men or just more women."

The complaint states that in February, Seidel told a city employee that he thought Singh couldn't run a city because she was "never there." When Singh called Seidel and told him that she was taking care of her sick child and had recently returned from quarantine, Seidel allegedly again told Singh he loved her.

A day later, Singh writes that Seidel wanted to bring that employee in to have her tell him to his face what she had reported to Singh the day before. Singh refused and told Seidel that his behavior was creating a hostile work environment, further explaining that his making remarks about their gender was illegal and he needed to stop. Singh states that Mayor Sherek walked up during this conversation and witnessed it from the hallway.

In February, Singh says the city's Public Works director reported that Seidel had made a racially insensitive comment to him. The director resigned from his position the same day he reported the comment to Singh.

Singh says in the complaint that on March 5, she reported the alleged sexual harassment and discrimination from Seidel to the city council during executive session. Seidel's response was allegedly that he was not a "DEI guy" and that he thought it was OK to say those things. During the meeting, Singh says Islas also attempted to reduce her reports of harassment down to Seidel and Singh not getting along. 

In the complaint, Singh also details reports made to her by other employees, including that Seidel insisted two employees hug him even though they were uncomfortable and Seidel telling the assistance police chief that she looked "very good" but that he wouldn't hug her because of her badge.

On March 22, Singh states that she reported the alleged sex discrimination incidents by Islas and the alleged racial discriminations by Seidel to the city attorney. The attorney was already aware of the sexual harassment and discrimination allegations Singh made against Seidel on March 5. 

The city attorney told Singh that an attorney from his office who was present during Singh's March 5 complaint had since made her own sexual harassment allegation against Seidel.

On March 29, Singh alleges that Councilmember Adam Marsh "notified us that he is going to make numerous allegations to the Texas Rangers about myself and others" and called their behavior of reporting the alleged harassment "childlike."

On April 2, Singh states that Islas told the mayor he thinks Singh needed to be fired if she did not stop citizens from releasing his arrest records – however, the chief of police said those were public records available to anyone.

In the final allegation listed in the complaint, Singh wrote that a group called "Citizens of Jarrell Seeking Change" – which she said "frequently smeared the opponents" of Councilmember March – insinuated that she was having an affair with the mayor. Singh writes that Seidel also insinuated the same in an email on March 24.

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