RIVERSIDE – The former mayor of Palm Springs and two developers were charged last week with public corruption the Riverside District Attorney announced. The case involves an estimated $375,000 in bribes paid to the former mayor of Palm Springs Stephen Philip Pougnet, 53.
Also charged in the case are Richard Hugh Meaney, 51, and John Elroy Wessman, 78, who are area developers. “We simply cannot tolerate corruption in government at any level,” DA Mike Hestrin said. “The people of Palm Springs are entitled to and should expect fair, open, and honest government in their city. “I want to commend the members of the Public Integrity Team here at the DA’s Office, as well as the Inland Regional Corruption Task Force for all their tremendous dedication and exemplary work in this case,” Hestrin added.
The 30-count criminal complaint against all three defendants was filed on Thursday, February 16, 2017. The complaint charges nine counts of accepting a bribe by an executive officer, nine counts of bribing an executive officer, eight counts of conflict of interest, three counts of perjury, and one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.
District Attorney’s officials said that the developers had a number of “significant and lucrative” development projects that were before the Palm Springs Council. Pougent, who was a mayor at the time voted on the projects which he had financial interests in. “During that time, Pougnet never disclosed those financial interests on any of his Statement of Economic Interest (Form 700) documents, which he signed under penalty of perjury,” District Attorney’s officials said. The developers, Meaney and Wessman secretly funneled money to Pougnet from 2012 to 2o14 when he was the mayor, to allegedly buy his influence.
If convicted as charged Pougnet may face a maximum sentence of 19 years in state prison. In addition to the time in prison, Pougnet would be barred for life from holding a public office. Meaney and Wessman, if convicted as charged may face a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison. All three are expected to surrender to the court in the coming days.
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