The DA investigated Steve Pougnet’s high paid gig with the Palm Springs Film Festival

Here we go again.

Thursday, the Desert Sun reported that the former Mayor of the City – who is currently on trial for allegedly taking $375,000 in bribes from developers – was also being investigated last year for his role consulting with the Palm Springs Film Festival – a.k.a. Rich People Prom.   And this wasn’t just any consulting job, this was a job that paid almost $250,000 over three years.

These allegations were revealed in a recently unsealed search warrant that was used to probe film festival records early last year. In an affidavit justifying the warrant, Mike Gavin, a senior investigator at the DA’s Office, said Pougnet’s film festival job is “suspicious,” his job description is “questionable” and his work product is “unknown.”

“I believe a review of Pougnet’s work records, invoices and employee contract with the Palm Springs International Film Festival may lead to proof that they were paying Pougnet for influence at City Hall rather than for actual work for PSIFF,” Gavin wrote in the affidavit.

The DA’s Office served this search warrant in February 2017, although it appears that they did not find the incriminating records they were looking for. Fourteen months have passed since then, but no film festival officials have been arrested and Pougnet has not been charged with any crime in connection with his film festival job.

The film fest says that they cooperated with investigators and turned over documents justifying that the money paid to Pougnet was totally on the level, according to the fest’s Board Treasurer David Baron .

In his first year, Pougnet failed to raise enough money to justify his salary, Baron said, so his pay was reduced to half – to $6,200 per month, or $75,000 a year – for the second and third years he worked for the festival.

After the pay cut, Pougnet had “no problem” turning a profit for the film festival with his fundraising, said Harold Matzner, the longtime festival chairman.

Must be nice to have a commision-type job that gives you a year leeway to merely break even with your big salary instead of only getting the normal 15-20% like most sales gigs where you get fired if you don’t hit your numbers in the first few months.

Pougnet and developers Richard Meany and John Wessman have all pleaded not guilty in the corruption case and The District Attorney’s office wouldn’t comment on the warrant or the film festival as it’s an “open investigation.”

You can and should read more about this story at the Desert Sun.


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