A dozen agents with the FBI and Riverside County District Attorney executed search warrants at Palm Springs City Hall on Tuesday morning, shutting the building down, sending employees home and removing evidence for an investigation.
About half a dozen law enforcement officials are also at an apartment that Mayor Steve Pougnet listed as his home address in county voter registration records. Pougnet lives part of the year with his husband and two children in Colorado.
Laura Eimiller, a public information officer with the FBI, said the warrants are sealed so she can’t comment on their nature. But she did confirm that the investigation is part of an Inland Empire public corruption task force that also involves the San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office and the Internal Revenue Service.
The raid comes roughly three months after the Fair Political Practices Commission announced it was investigating a vote by Mayor Steve Pougnet that awarded the sale of city property at a questionable price to developer Richard Meaney and his partner. The FPPC began investigating after The Desert Sun published a series of stories linking the mayor to more than $200,000 in consulting work to Union Abbey, a company owned by Meaney. At the time the company’s business license had been suspended by the State of California for five years.
California was seeking more than $47,000 in unpaid taxes from Union Abbey when Pougnet began working for the company. When The Desert Sun first asked Pougnet about the consulting contract, he said it was only for development work outside of Palm Springs. He later changed his story and said Union Abbey paid him to explain the city’s economic development plans.
A paper sign with the word “closed” had been posted on the main public entrance to City Hall. A handful of people milled around outside as Palm Springs City Manager David Ready entered city hall shortly after 9:30 a.m.
“I don’t know anything,” Ready said. “I’m going to go find out.”