Scandal at City Hall

FBI raid at Palm Springs City Hall: One year later

A lot has changed, and a lot has been learned...

FBI raid at Palm Springs City Hall: One year later

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Thursday September 1 marked the one year anniversary since FBI agents raided Palm Springs City Hall serving search warrants along with Riverside and San Bernardino County District Attorneys offices.

A year later, News Channel 3 is following the continuing public corruption and ethics investigation into former Mayor Steve Pougnet involving city land sales and business dealings with local developers.

It's not yet known what, if anything, might be revealed.

But those now in charge at City Hall say they've learned a lot over the past year.

Palm Springs Mayor Robert Moon says he knows no more than anyone else about the FBI investigation and it's possible findings.

"I look forward to it," said Moon. "I wish it was tomorrow, because I want to put this behind us and continue moving forward," he added.

Moving forward is what the Mayor wants. But he's also proud of what he and the new city council have already accomplished since former Mayor Steve Pougnet left office in January under a cloud of controversy.

That was when the public learned he worked for a developer, Richard Meaney, who'd won grant money and gotten favorable land sales from the city.

Mayor Moon says they have since opened up the controversial downtown redevelopment project to the public, a Pougnet priority, and a project that had been mired in secrecy.

"A lot of that was going on and people didn't know what was happening," said Moon. "There were things passed in consent calendars and hidden inside documents that were not brought out to the public," Moon added.

Moon says a four hour public meeting at the convention center was a "major game changer" and an example of a new era of openness and transparency.

"We went through that development project, line by line by line. And we listened to anyone who wanted to comment," said Moon.

New City Council member Geoff Kors agrees saying cutting the downtown development's density by half dramatically changed it from what the former council approved.

Kors said, "And I think it's really good that this new council is not just agreeing to anything a developer asked for.  To have 1.8 million square feet on that downtown plot would have been incredibly dense and dark and uninviting." Kors added, "I think we made the project better for the developer, but also for the residents."

Council member Ginny Foat says she does not believe the FBI investigation will uncover any legal issues with the city's redevelopment land sales saying they were totally above board, despite poor public communications about them.

Foat said, "So I think we were not as transparent as we should have been, and that's all been changed."

Foat says she has not spoken to former mayor Pougnet since he left office.
City Manager David Ready said, "When the FBI and DEA comes into City Hall, it's very disconcerting."
Ready adds the FBI investigation has been a humbling experience.

Like Foat, Ready says he's confident no laws were broken, but is waiting for the investigation's results. He's also now trying harder than ever to make sure the public knows what's going on at City Hall, state law minimums are simply not enough. 

Ready said, "But at the core it comes down to making sure the citizens have a comfort level with what we're doing with the operations and it's transparent."
Part-time City Attorney, Doug Holland, is being replaced by a full-time appointment-- a search is now underway.

The council reaffirmed Ready as City Manager.

The city has ended it's redevelopment incentives program.

And while not required legally, appraisals are now conducted for city land sales-- giving more transparency to the process.

Three more public meetings are planned this fall for the general plan-- vacation rentals--- also ethics and transparency results.
Kors says other important issues include campaign finance, term limits, evening council meetings so people who work can attend.

As for Mayor Moon. He says none of these changes would have happened if former Mayor Pougnet was still in office.
You can see the seized documents online-- all 4519 pages of them. The city has posted them at:

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