PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - The city of Palm Springs filed a lawsuit to reclaim land the Riverside district attorney's office allege was sold with bribery.
"If we can get that property back and keep the money, that's a win-win for the city," Palm Springs City Councilor Geoff Kors said.
The 6 acres of land, currently used as a parking lot, is at the center of a new lawsuit. It was sold under former Mayor Steve Pougnet, who is now facing bribery charges from the district attorney's office for land sales with two development companies. The land is known as the Prairie Schooner lot. City officials said if the charges against Pougnet stick, contracts for the sale to Nexus, a Richard Meaney development company, would be void.
"If there was a 1090 violation through bribery, then we're not only entitled to the land back but we get to keep the money that was paid," Kors said.
City councilors announced the lawsuit in the last meeting. Charges by the DA's office are still pending for Pougnet. We reached out to the city attorney to find out why the lawsuit was filed ahead of charges being heard in court. City Attorney Doug Holland sent us this statement: "The lawsuit was established to preserve the city's rights in the event 1090 violations are established."
In essence, the city said it is staying ahead of the game. But this was only one of many properties sold under Pougnet. Holland said the Downtown Development Project will continue. City Councilman Kors said the city is looking at other properties it could recover.
"Each project that might be implicated is being evaluated by the city attorney, by the expert outside council that we hired, and we're going to look at what's best for taxpayers," Kors said.
The lawsuit has been filed, but a decision can't be made until we know the outcome of the DA's charges against Pougnet, Meaney and developer John Wessman.
"There's a severe penalty for these things, and the city is looking at every single project that might be implicated and figuring out what is in the best interest of taxpayers," Kors said.
We reached out to Nexus Development for comment. The company's number was disconnected.