Scandal at City Hall

Hear from whistle blowers that led to Scandal at City Hall investigation

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Palm Springs City Council candidate Robert Stone said it all began in Spring 2015, with a call to a U.S. Attorney.

"I explained that I was a private citizen in Palm Springs, and I had documentation to believe there was corruption in Palm Springs city government."

Read all about the Scandal at City Hall

He said his initial concerns, however, date back to 2011, and real estate developer John Wessman. 

"That was the time that the City of Palm Springs shoveled $43 million into John Wessman's pocket, based upon a napkin sketch," Stone said. "Not a single permit had been filed, and not a single building had been designed. That said to me that something is radically wrong here."

From there, Stone said he began working with now-fellow candidate Judy Deertrack, sending documents to federal authorities related to Wessman, developer Richard Meaney, former Mayor Steve Pougnet and projects within the city, including the Downtown plan.

"We reported the city's abandonment of the community plan for Downtown," Deertrack said. "(The) radical amendment of the plan without cause, inflation in the scale and height of buildings, subsidies that soared from $47 million to $170 million, failure to disclose Wessman's use of a $32 million escrow account, and most amazingly, a $100 million windfall to Wessman, because the hotel tax rebates go directly into his pocket rather than to hotel operations."

Their work helped lead to an FBI raid of Palm Springs City Hall later that year, and criminal charges against the three men earlier this year. 

They said they hope their actions will inspire others to keep a close eye on their local leaders. 

"We have gotten outstanding investigative reporting that really enlarged our capacity, not only to present our information, but to get an investigative capacity to enlarge that," Deertrack said. "And often, that would be re-funneled back into the FBI task force."

Deertrack also has been a source for some of KESQ and CBS Local 2's investigative reports. 

She said they've provided additional information to authorities since the indictments, however, they're not sure if additional indictments will take place. 

 

 


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