Timeline: Palm Springs City Officials And Developers Charged Wit - Palm Springs News, Weather, Traffic, Breaking News

Timeline: Palm Springs City Officials And Developers Charged With Corruption

Posted: Updated:
Palm Springs, CA -

Thursday, Feb. 16
-11:15AM-

Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin announced the filing of charges against three men in a public corruption case involving an estimated $375,000 in bribes paid to the former mayor of the City of Palm Springs.

Charged in this case are former Palm Springs mayor Stephen Philip Pougnet, DOB: 4-27-63; Richard Hugh Meaney, DOB: 1-7-66; and John Elroy Wessman, DOB: 10-22-38. Meaney and Wessman are developers in the area.

“We simply cannot tolerate corruption in government at any level,” DA Mike Hestrin said. “The people of Palm Springs are entitled to and should expect fair, open, and honest government in their city.

“I want to commend the members of the Public Integrity Team here at the DA’s Office, as well as the Inland Regional Corruption Task Force for all their tremendous dedication and exemplary work in this case,” Hestrin added.

The criminal complaint, filed today, Feb. 16, 2017, charges 30 total counts covering all three defendants. The complaint charges nine counts of accepting a bribe by an executive officer (Penal Code section 68), nine counts of bribing an executive officer (PC section 69), eight counts of conflict of interest (Government Code section 1090), three counts of perjury (PC section 118), and one count of conspiracy to commit bribery (PC section 182).

If convicted as currently charged, Pougnet would be barred for life from ever holding public office and would face a potential maximum sentence of 19 years in state prison. If convicted as currently charged, Meaney and Wessman face a potential maximum sentence of 12 years in state prison.

All three defendants are expected to surrender themselves to the court in the next few days. Dates for the arraignments of each defendant will be provided when made available by the court. Based on the evidence obtained during the investigation by District Attorney’s investigators assigned to the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Team, this is a synopsis of the case: Developers Meaney and Wessman secretly funneled money to Pougnet when he was the mayor of Palm Springs over the years 2012 through 2014 in order to buy his influence.

At the time, both developers had a number of significant and lucrative development projects that were before the Palm Springs City Council. Pougnet, while serving the city as its mayor, voted on a number of projects in which he had a financial interest over that same timeframe. During that time, Pougnet never disclosed those financial interests on any of his Statement of Economic Interest (Form 700) documents, which he signed under penalty of perjury.

The case is being prosecuted by Deputy DAs Amy Barajas and Emily Hanks of the DA’s Public Integrity Team.

-1:52PM-

KMIR's Kitty Alvarado spoke with the attorney of former Palm Springs Mayor, Steve Pougnet. He confirmed that Pougnet is indeed in Denver and gave this statement:

"Steve Pougnet always did his very best during his service as mayor for the people of Palm Springs. He made all of the disclosures required of him and more. The allegations failed to take into account that he was just one vote out of five on the city council and that every project had a full hearing before the decision was made that the project was good for Palm Springs. Steve is proud of his service and continues to take pride of the work he did." Attorney Malcom Segal, Segal and Associates.

KMIR was also able to get a statement from Senior VP and son-in-law of John Wessman Michael Braun, "As you know, it is company policy not to comment on any ongoing litigation. It is my intent to finish the Downtown Project in accordance with the entitlements granted by the current City Council."

According to WMCTV in Memphis, the Wessman Development Company is also developing two hotels in Memphis including the former College of Art on South Main. It is unknown at this moment if those projects are in jeopardy due to the events that took place today.

-4:14PM-

KMIR obtained documentation from Michael Braun where he issued the following statement: 

"As you are aware, the Riverside County District Attorney  has filed a complaint against Former Mayor of the City of Palm Springs, Stephen Pougnet, Richard Meaney and John Wessman.    John Wessman was named as a defendant in the action based upon certain allegations that he and Mr. Meaney allegedly gave or offered bribes to the then Mayor Stephen Pougnet in an effort to influence an action, decision or vote by Mr. Pougnet.    The complaint filed by the District Attorney of the County of Riverside does NOT name any Wessman Holdings or Wessman Development related entity as a defendant, nor does it name Michael Braun, Octavio Fernandez, or any other Wessman employee as a defendant.   While John Wessman denies all of the allegations of the complaint, which he will vigorously defend, the paramount concern of John Wessman, myself all of the Wessman entities and the entirety of the staff, is that these events are not a distraction or a concern to you.

In light of these events, John Wessman has formally retired and is no longer involved in the management or in the day to day operations of Wessman Development, Wessman Holdings, or other related entities.  This includes all existing projects, including those currently in the planning and/or construction stages, such as the Downtown Palm Springs Project.   As you are also aware, for over the past six months, Wessman Development, Wessman Holdings and other related entities have been managed by myself going forward, I will continue to manage all of these entities and ongoing projects, with the assistance and support of Octavio Fernandez, as well as the development and construction teams at Wessman Development and Wessman Holdings.  

The entire team at Wessman Holdings and Wessman Development along with myself are dedicated to completing all projects as contemplated, and we want to assure you that the aforementioned event does not sway our commitment to the City and citizens of Palm Springs in any way, and will in no way delay or impact our ongoing progress.   We look forward to working with the City of Palm Springs towards the completion of the Downtown Project, so that the citizens of Palm Springs, and all of the visitors to our wonderful community, have a great experience in Downtown."

Friday, Feb. 17
-1:07PM-

John Wessman has surrendered to authorities and was released on a $25,000 bail. According to court records, Wessman went to a bail bonds location, so there is no booking photo.

-4:50PM-

Richard Meany has now posted bail at the same amount of $25,000.

 

Stay with KMIR as we continue to get more details around this active investigation.

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