BY PAUL VELASCO
CURRENT AFFAIRS EDITOR
Former mayor of Palm Springs, Steve Pougnet, who had previously been charged with taking bribes from local businessmen, turned himself into a Riverside jail on Feb. 22.
Pougnet was charged with 21 felony counts of corruption by a public official. Two Coachella Valley developers Richard Hugh Meaney and John Elroy Wessman, were also charged with 10 counts each, including bribery of a public official and conspiracy. Meaney and Wessman reportedly sought support on land projects by buying Pougnet’s vote when the projects were introduced in meetings. According to The Press Enterprise:
These projects included The Dakota, the Desert Fashion Plaza, The Morrison and Vivante. The money started exchanging hands in September 2012 until the fall of 2014, towards the end of Pougnet’s term. The bribes totaled about $375,000. Pougnet did not seek re – election after the end of the term. The investigation by the Desert Sun revealed that Meaney and Wessman had stakes in high value city projects that needed City Council votes. The former mayor was their go – to individual for pushing the projects through the Council. The payments to Pougnet allegedly came from the accounts of Meaney’s Union Abbey Co. and Wessman Development Inc., who pretended to hire the former mayor as the consultant.
According to the Desert Sun, both Pougnet and Meaney will have their arraignment in April, while Wessman will have his arraignment in March. If all three are convicted, Pougnet will receive up to 19 years in prison and a lifetime ban from holding public office while Meaney and Wessman will receive up to 12 years each.