PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - The Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating whether Palm Springs officials committed ethics violations when the city sent out an election mailer regarding two ballot measures that will be put before the voters next month.
The FPPC probe was triggered by a complaint filed by Robert Stone, a Palm Springs City Council candidate. He alleges that the city circumvented the County Registrar's office by sending out voter information regarding a pair of initiatives on the Nov. 7 ballot, without publishing any arguments in opposition to the measures.
The city attorney released a statement on the investigation:
The City of Palm Springs engages in a public education effort with respect to any measure that the City Council places on the ballot. Doing so is part of the City’s fulfillment of its duty to the voters, and is consistent with all applicable law. The initiation of an FPPC investigation of an allegation does not signal that the allegation in question has any merit. Making public statements about this specific allegation at this time, as desirable as that might be from a political point of view, would be at best inappropriate. Apart from communications with the FPPC, the City must decline to state anything that could reasonably be construed as interfering with, or even trying to influence the administrative process at work in this matter.
According to a city official, the cost for printing/graphics/labeling $10,800 for 16,635 households – that equals $1.19 per household. The cost of the postage was $3,121.
Measure D would raise the city's sales tax by a half-cent. The mailer states that the increase would generate between $6 million and $7 million per year to help support police and emergency services.
Measure E would apply a tax already levied at medical marijuana operators toward any new commercial, medical and recreational cannabis sales and businesses. The mailer states that if the measure is approved, the projected tax revenue is difficult to estimate, but the mailer mentions that
Palm Springs currently receives about $1.5 million annually in cannabis tax revenue.
Stone alleges that the mailer misleads voters by not listing any opposing views and not citing how the estimated tax revenue figures were generated.
The FPCC sent a letter to Stone on Monday confirming that the investigation was underway, but noted that no determination had yet been made regarding the validity of Stone's allegations.
Stone, one of six people vying for an open seat on the city council after longtime councilmembers Ginny Foat and Chris Mills announced they would not seek re-election, said he "was pleased to see that the FPCC recognized the questionable legality of the mailer and that they will conduct a formal
He referenced the recent felony charges against former Mayor Steve Pougnet and local developers Richard Meaney and John Wessman as an indication that the city still has work to do to reform its image.
"We currently have 31 felony counts pending against our former mayor and two local developers, with indictments for bribery and perjury. And now Palm Springs finds itself once again under investigation. We have to clean up our act, and this is the main reason I'm running for City Council,'' Stone said.