Following the bribery scandal involving Palm Springs’ former mayor, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office confirmed Friday that a second, unrelated investigation is under way into activities at City Hall.

District attorney investigators were at Palm Springs City Hall Tuesday, though prosecutors would not disclose the reasons for their inquiry, nor which departments they were visiting.

However, city officials confirmed Friday that the recent activity was part of an ongoing probe involving two former city employees who were investigated last year for theft of a city vehicle, as well as conducting unneeded vehicle repairs and parts purchases.

The city announced last July that the employees, who worked in the city’s Fleet Maintenance Division, were being investigated for performing “repairs that should not have occurred,” according to City Manager David Ready.

Prosecutors and the Palm Springs Police Department began an investigation into the employees over the theft of a surplus tractor, which has since been recovered, and for conducting “alleged inappropriate vehicle repairs” and “parts procurement,” valued at around $10,000 to $15,000.

“As public servants, we must vigilantly safeguard public resources; it is deeply disappointing to learn when employees are found to disregard that public trust,” Ready said in a statement last year. “In this case, we are pleased that our internal `checks and balances’ worked to uncover the discrepancy. Also, we continue to encourage employees to come forward with any information of wrongdoing.

As city manager for 16 years, I personally witness high standards of ethical conduct from members of the city team on a daily basis. I want our residents to know the actions of a few employees does not reflect the diligent and ethical work done every day by our dedicated staff in the duty of public service.”

D.A. spokesman John Hall said the new investigation is unrelated to the recent bribery scandal, in which former Mayor Steve Pougnet allegedly accepted $375,000 from developers Richard Meaney and John Wessman in exchange for favorable votes on several downtown development projects.

About two years after federal and local authorities raided Palm Springs City Hall, charges were filed against the men in February.

As for the new investigation, “No arrests have been made and no charges filed. Because it is an ongoing investigation, we cannot comment further at this time,” Hall said.

— City News Service

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