Ex-Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet planned to move to Colorado to join his husband and two children when his first term ended in 2011, but two developers put him “on their payroll” in order to secure his votes on their projects, prosecutors told a grand jury that returned an indictment in the case, according to transcripts released Wednesday.
More than 700 pages of grand jury transcripts were unsealed in the case of Pougnet, 56, and developers John Elroy Wessman, 81, and Richard Hugh Meaney, 54, who were indicted on 30 bribery and corruption charges last summer.
Defense attorneys for the trio sought to have the transcripts, which include testimony from 13 witnesses, sealed until the end of the trial, arguing that reporting on the material might taint the defendants’ chances of getting a fair trial.
“This is a case about political corruption in the city of Palm Springs,” Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Amy Barajas told 19 grand jurors in August, according to the transcripts. “What kind of corruption? Well, one of the oldest stories in the book. Some wealthy real estate developers get a politician on their payroll, and in exchange they get favorable treatment, inside access and large contracts.”
Prosecutors allege Pougnet pocketed a total of $375,000 between 2012 and 2014 to vote favorably certain development projects when they came up before the Palm Springs City Council.
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