Palm Springs, CA
The past 17 months for the City of Palm Springs have not been easy. What started with the FBI raiding city hall in September of 2015 culminated in criminal charges filed against former mayor Steve Pougnet and developers John Wessman and Richard Meaney.
"Richard Meaney and John Wessman were working together to bribe the mayor … in exchange for influence for favors," Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin announced last week..
Palm Springs City Manager, David Ready says hearing the district attorney announce the charges was tough, "All of us were shocked, you know clearly this is the last thing that we ever wanted to happen, " but he says even tougher was knowing the trust Palm Springs residents had in their city government was damaged, "there’s nothing more important to me than integrity in government that’s what I do and so obviously it’s been hugely distressing and disheartening."
But Mayor Robert Moon says it’s important for people to understand the process was thorough, "It was one person, one city employee, the mayor and two developers who have been charged and we saw the documents going out, I mean tens and tens and tens of thousands and they went through those and they found nothing in our processes that would cause any problems as far as the way the city operated."
And now both men say with the charges clear they plan to focus on the downtown redevelopment project which some have said is in jeopardy.
"I’m very optimistic about the whole thing … some people are worried that, ‘oh the contracts, there were all these contracts that were done between us and the developers are invalid,’ that’s not true unless someone is found guilty, those contracts are still valid and that’s going to take a year, two years," says Moon.
"The council is committed to getting it done so right now we’re moving forward if at some point in the future the legalities say we have to take a different approach then that’s what we’re going to have to do but I think the goal is in the community interest to get that project done," says Ready adding that the city’s future depends on the project, "what we’ve done over the last ten years, you know the convention center expansion the changing of our hotel stock and improving that an that and the third leg of that stool which is important, the downtown development and those were the things were going to drive were going to drive our economy for the next 50 years."
But Ready says even more critical is mending the relationship between city government and the people they serve, "The only way you can achieve that is if the community trusts our city government and that’s what I need to rebuild."
Moon says despite the setbacks the city’s renaissance is unstoppable, "The city is booming … and by the time we’re sitting here a year from now and that’s all completed it’s going to be a totally even better city."