The name of a development company currently looking to build a large-scale hotel and resort in Pismo Beach continues to pop up in connection with a federal investigation into government corruption in Palm Springs.
The scandal, which has rocked Palm Springs, involves an allegedly cozy relationship between city Mayor Steve Pougnet and his friend and developer Richard Meaney. On Sept. 1, agents from the FBI, IRS, and the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office served search warrants at Palm Springs City Hall and Pougnet’s home as part of a corruption probe.
Investigative reporting by The Desert Sun, a Palm Springs newspaper, connected Meaney to Nexus Development, a company currently working on a hotel project in Pismo Beach. According to The Desert Sun’s reporting, Meaney was listed as a principal for Nexus, but his name disappeared from a list of executives on the company’s website in the weeks following the newspaper’s investigative series on the relationship between Pougnet and Meaney. That reporting also claimed that Pougnet voted to approve a Nexus Development project in Palm Springs in 2012 shortly before the company helped sell a property he owned with three other men.
Nexus is currently attempting to move forward with plans to build the BeachWalk Hotel, a 128-room, 94,000-square-foot hotel and resort on Pismo’s scenic beachfront. The project was approved by Pismo’s Planning Commission and City Council, but is pending appeal from the California Costal Commission and facing a lawsuit from a group of local residents. Pismo Beach City Manager Jim Lewis said that he was aware of the investigation in Palm Springs and that he’d briefed members of the City Council on the matter as well.
“I’ve asked [Nexus] to affirm what this means for the Pismo project, but I haven’t heard back from them,” Lewis said.
Lewis said he didn’t think that the investigation would have an impact on the Nexus project in Pismo. He noted that the sale of the land for the project was between Nexus and a private individual, not the city.
“We are just processing the permits for the project,” Lewis said. “To us, they are simply an applicant.”
Lewis said that the city hasn’t been contacted by the FBI or the IRS.
Officials from the Los Angles Branch office of the FBI told New Times that they wouldn’t be able to confirm whether or not Nexus was being investigated as part of the probe or if they were planning on serving any search warrants or subpoenas to the company. Nexus didn’t respond to questions from New Times about the probe and Meaney’s role in the company.
The warrants served in Palm Springs came after The Desert Sun published a series of stories claiming that Pougnet received more than $200,000 from Abbey Union, a consulting firm owned by Meaney. Pougnet and the Palm Springs City Council later approved the sale of land to Meany and a partner, according to The Desert Sun’s investigative reporting.