PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - UPDATE 11/22/17: The City of Palm Springs released a statement via the city's attorney two days later claiming no violations had taken place.
The City thanks Messrs. Freedman and Tansey for their sincere concern about the integrity of proceedings related to Council action with respect to the City's initial approval of the development agreement with DTPS 3-B, LLC regarding construction of the Virgin Hotel. The City has availed itself of the specialized services of Gary Schons, the head of Best, Best & Krieger's Government Policy & Public Integrity Practice, to analyze the serious allegations made. As will be explained at the City Council's special meeting on November 29, 2017, no violations of law or the City's ethics and transparency policies have taken place. Mr. Schons will be in attendance on the 29th. - Edward Kotkin, Palm Springs City Attorney
Original Post 11/20/17:
Two committee members from the Palm Springs Ethics Task Force have sent a letter to the city asking it to correct what the committee members are calling violations of the Brown Act, over the vote to allow the Virgin Hotel to move forward in Palm Springs.
David Freedman, co-chair of the Transparency Working Committee, and Roger Tansey, co-chair of Campaign Finance Committee, sent the letter Monday, detailing what they say were violations of the open meeting requirements and the city's new ethics and transparency policies.
The pair said at the Nov.15 meeting, where the council voted 3-2 to move forward with the Virgin Hotel in the Downtown project, there were several violations.
They stated that the matter should not have been discussed prior to the meeting in closed session, since it was not a legal issue. They also have concerns about the staff report for the Nov. 15 meeting, which they stated "failed to disclose the true ownership interests behind DTPS 3-B, LLC. which included John Wessman as a retired passive owner."
Freedman and Tansey also claim that with the new transparency rules, if completed staff reports are not available to council members 72 hours before a meeting, the item is to be tabled.
They also offered suggestions to the city to correct the violations, by making all documents available for the Nov. 29 special meeting and instead of having the second reading, calling that a first reading, which would allow the public to comment.
The controversy is centered on whether, by voting for a new agreement and extension, the city would lose existing rights to recover any transient occupancy tax, or TOT, rebates paid to the owners, if there is a conviction in the pending criminal case against John Wessman.
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