September 30, 2022 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Gay Ex-Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet charged with corruption

BY KAREN OCAMB | The long Palm Spring sun seems to be setting on Steve Pougnet, the one-time fair-haired gay politico who served two terms as mayor and vigorously but unsuccessfully ran for Congress against Mary Bono in 2010. On Thursday, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office filed a criminal complaint alleging that Pougnet took $375,000 in bribes from two real estate developers in exchange for favorable votes for the two years between September 2012 and September 2014. 

Pougnet, 53, is being charged with nine counts of receiving bribes, eight counts of conflict of interest as a public official and three counts of perjury, according to extensive reporting by the Desert Sun.  District Attorney Mike Hestrin also said that developers John Wessman and Richard Meaney were each charged with nine counts of offering a bribe and all three are charged with conspiracy to commit bribery. Pougnet faces a possible maximum sentence of 19 years in state prison if convicted on all charges. If they are convicted, Meaney, 51, and Wessman, 78, could each face a potential 12 years in state prison. 

“Richard Meaney and John Wessman were working together to bribe the mayor, so the money was obviously traveling from the developers to the mayor,” Hestrin told reporters. “This is a large amount of money that was paid to the mayor for his influence on the City Council.”

The scheme was complicated, but, Hestrin said, “It’s pretty brazen and pretty obvious once you scratch the surface.” The corruption charges send the message that “everybody deserves fair, open and honest government.”

The initial investigation was prompted by a Desert Sun story looking at ties between Pougnet and Meaney. That lead to a shocking Sept. 1, 2015 raid on City Hall by FBI, IRS and DA agents, who also raided Pougnet’s Palm Springs house. Pougnet asked the public not to rush to judgment and let the investigation run its course. He left office shortly after the Palm Springs Pride parade that year.

Pougnet is currently living in Colorado with his husband and two children but intends to appear in Riverside court next week, according to his attorney who issued this statement on Thursday: 

“Steve Pougnet is very proud of his service as Mayor of Palm Springs. He always worked with the best of Palm Springs in trying to rebuild the downtown.  He made all the financial disclosures required of him. In the final analysis, although no one likes being charged with a crime he welcomes the opportunity to demonstrate that he did nothing wrong.”

Related Posts

Liberation Café Hosts Anniversary Celebration, in-Person Dining After Two-Year Pandemic Restrictions

September 22, 2022

September 22, 2022

By Susan Payne Two years after opening, the plastic partitions that separated employees and customers inside of Liberation Coffee House...

Long Beach Police Arrest Possible Suspect in Stabbing Death Outside of a Popular Gay Bar

September 22, 2022

September 22, 2022

By Susan Payne Long Beach Police have arrested a man in connection to a murder outside of Mineshaft gay bar...

Santa Monica Hotel Hosting Monthly Drag Brunch

September 22, 2022

September 22, 2022

Drag Me to Brunch at Lowes Santa Monica Beach Hotel on the third Sunday of every month By Dolores Quintana...

Famous Italian Singer Zucchero to Play Beverly Hills Theatre on Sept. 30

September 21, 2022

September 21, 2022

Zucchero will play at Beverly Hills’ Saban Theatre, one of several American stops on his World Wide Tour  By Susan...

Santa Monica Pride History: Public Panics Over Perceived Homosexuality at Muscle Beach

September 16, 2022

September 16, 2022

By Susan Payne In a scholarly article called “Muscle Beach prompted both fascination and anxiety,” Historian Elsa Devienne studies Santa...

LAUSD Releases Pride Calendar That Helps Educators Support LGBTQ+ Students

September 15, 2022

September 15, 2022

By Susan Payne  The Los Angeles Unified School District is giving schools and teachers a monthly calendar that promotes and...

Respect Los Angeles Hails JoJo Siwa as ‘Gamechanger for LGBTQ Advocacy’

September 15, 2022

September 15, 2022

By Susan Payne Come October, JoJo Siwa will be honored as a gamechanger at the upcoming GLSEN Respect Log Angeles...

West Hollywood Launches Initiative to Prevent Drink Spiking

September 15, 2022

September 15, 2022

By Susan Payne Drink spiking at bars and restaurant is a growing problem. To curb that problem, the city of...

California Candidate for Congress Seeks to Be First Transgender, Nonbinary Member

September 8, 2022

September 8, 2022

By Susan Payne More than 100 LGBTQ+ people have run or are currently running for Congress this year, including 13...

WeHo Gay Bar ‘The Or’ is Opening Soon, Accepting Applications

September 8, 2022

September 8, 2022

Bar owner foresees ‘cool, 1970s, ‘80s trashy cocaine chic’ vibes  By Susan Payne Set for a September opening in the...

Georgia Added to California Travel Ban Post Anti-Trans Youth Sports Law Passage

September 8, 2022

September 8, 2022

By Susan Payne California is restricting state-funded travel to Georgia as a result of its anti-LGBTQ+ legislation recently passed within...

QFilms Long Beach Screens Billy Eichner RomCom ‘Bros’

September 8, 2022

September 8, 2022

In partnership with the Art Theatre, 29th Annual film festival is happening now By Susan Payne Dozens of features and...

LA Public Health Expands Monkeypox Vaccine Eligibility

August 26, 2022

August 26, 2022

Persons of any gender or sexual orientation who engaged in commercial and/or transactional sex in the past 14 days now...

Black LGBTQ+ Rally for Brittney Griner Ignited by Former Firefighter

August 25, 2022

August 25, 2022

By Susan Payne  Olympian and WNBA basketball star Brittany Griner received a nine-year sentence in Russia for possessing hash oil...

Detroit Vesey’s Announces Decision to Move with Possible Expansion to Offer Liquor, Larger Drag Acts

August 25, 2022

August 25, 2022

By Susan Payne  Inflation in a world still impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged small businesses in more ways...