- Associated Press - Thursday, February 16, 2017

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) - The former mayor of Palm Springs was charged with corruption Thursday for taking about $375,000 in bribes from developers to buy his influence, prosecutors say.

Stephen Philip Pougnet, 53, and the developers face 30 charges including bribery, perjury, conflict of interest and conspiracy.

Pougnet was mayor from 2012 through 2014.

During that time, Richard Meaney, 51, and John Wessman, 79, funneled money to the mayor while they had “a number of significant and lucrative” development projects before the City Council, according to a statement from the Riverside County district attorney’s office.

Pougnet voted on some of the projects without disclosing his financial interest, prosecutors said.



“The message I hope goes out here is that everybody deserves fair, open and honest government,” District Attorney Mike Hestrin said at a news conference. “People in public office need to be held to a high standard for the good of the public. They shouldn’t be there to enrich themselves.”

At the time of a 2015 FBI raid on City Hall, Pougnet issued a statement pledging cooperation with the inquiry.

A telephone message seeking comment was left for Wessman Thursday. A listing for Meaney could not be immediately located.

Pougnet, 53, could face up to 19 years in state prison if convicted and would be barred from holding public office. Meaney and Wessman each face a potential maximum sentence of 12 years in state prison.

The three men were expected to surrender themselves in the next few days, prosecutors said.

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