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Scandal at City Hall: A closer look at Richard Meaney

We’re going in-depth on the role businessman Richard Meaney allegedly played in the corruption scandal at Palm Springs City Hall, ahead of his scheduled arraignment on Friday.

Of the three men facing charges, Meaney is the least known. The FBI raid on City Hall and multi-task force investigation led to a paper trail that allegedly shows Meaney as “The man in the middle.”

Special Report: The rise and fall of former Palm Springs mayor Steve Pougnet

“Richard Meaney and John Wessman were working together to bribe the Mayor and so the monies were traveling from the developers to the mayor and then in exchange for influence for favors.” Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in a February 2017 press conference announcing the charges against Wessman, Meaney, and Pougnet.

Richard Meaney and John Wessman are accused of paying then Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet $375,000 between 2012 and 2014. According to prosecutors, Pougnet worked as a consultant for Union Abby, a company that was created by Meaney. But according to the D.A., there is no proof Pougnet did any actual consulting work.

“Some of the companies that we’re talking about are shell companies and their payments run through shell companies or fake organizations and then paid to the mayor,” said D.A. Hestrin.

Meaney, a real estate developer and personal friend of Pougnet was involved in multiple projects that city officials voted on during the years Mayor Pougnet was receiving so-called consulting fees from Meaney’s company. In fact, in 2014 Pougnet joined the city council in approving a land sale to Meaney. Pougnet later stating his participation in the vote was an oversite.

In 2015 Richard Meaney and his wife Heidi released a statement in support of Mayor Pougnet;

“It’s sad that a handful of people are unhappy with the most productive Mayor this Valley has ever seen and feel that it’s ok to drag both of us through the mud in an effort to unseat him.”

Later that summer Meaney and silent partner developer John Wessman opened hacienda cantina and beach club in palm springs. The restaurant was partially funded by a $250,000 grant through the city’s redevelopment program. The restaurant has since closed and Meaney has not paid back the money.

“Unfortunately for Palm Springs, in a sense, there’s going to be some difficulties in untangling this because when you have contracts that came about and entered into where there was a conflict of interest, then those contracts become voided,” noted D.A. Hestrin.

The two phone numbers we had for Richard Meaney have been disconnected. We did find out through real estate records on-line that he still owned a home in Palm Springs, we went to that address to only find out it had been sold.

Meaney has not spoken to the media or released a statement since the September 1st, 2015 F.B.I. raid on Palm Springs City Hall. Meaney is charged with nine counts of offering a bribe and one count of conspiring to bribe a public official. If convicted of all charges he faces up to 12 years in state prison.

We’ll also have updates as Meaney appears in court at the Riverside Hall of Justice Friday morning.

Check out more ‘Scandal at City Hall coverage

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