On November 15, the Palm Springs City Council voted 3 to 2 to approve the Virgin Hotel.
Members of the Palm Springs Transparency Committee said the city council was not following recommendations made by the Transparency Task Force to make sure the public was aware that John Wessman is still an owner of the the development and can stand to cash in as a retired passive owner.
Council members Geoff Kors and JR Roberts voted no. They said this is because it gives up the 1090 protection rights of the city for the project and that the vote could wait for the new council.
This involves the transient occupancy tax agreement that was originally made to develop the Marriott and was transfer the development of the Virgin. That Marriott agreement was approved by a council headed up by former Mayor Steve Pougnet.
The remaining council members disagreed and said a no vote would be a vote against the Virgin Hotel. Members of the city’s Transparency Task Force wanted to wait to have the new council vote on this at the beginning of the year.
“While the city did comply with the requirements that the information be provided under the requirements of state law. We have suggested and city council has adopted that they need to go farther than state law,” David Freedman, Co-Chair of Transparency and Reform Task Force.
“We have had a history of sweetheart deals giving things away to developers here and for that reason, I thought it was outrageous for the outgoing city council to take a vote on the Virgin Hotel,” said Alaina Bixon, a Palm Springs resident.
People giving comment raised concern over 1090 protections on the project.
Stating that a criminal conviction of John Wessman could void contracts between him and the city.
Mayor Moon and Council members Ginny Foat and Chris Mills said this project has nothing to do with Wessman and is only connected to Grit Development.
Ed Kotkin, City Attorney for Palm Springs, reached out to get outside counsel. Both the outside council and the city attorney say they have not violated the brown act or violated any city ethical violation.
Kotkin also said that Wessman would not directly benefit from the Virgin Hotel, but his hires could.
There were plenty of people at Wednesday’s meeting that were for the council voting on the second reading. Many said the city will gain millions of dollars in tax revenue and create 200 new jobs.