Why did a top government official allow an agency spokeswoman to issue – and reissue — a statement knowing it was false and crossed ethical boundaries?
That is the question Jim Ferguson is asking in the wake of a statement Erica Felci, governmental projects manager for the Coachella Valley Association of Governments, (CVAG), made in response to Ferguson’s lawsuit that could bring to a halt the $100 million CV Link.
Ferguson, a longtime Palm Desert resident and attorney, filed a lawsuit on Oct. 13, in Riverside County Superior Court in Palm Springs, alleging that money from a variety of sources is being used illegally to pay for the project.
“Mr. Ferguson has already called us ‘thugs’ so it’s not surprising he would file a lawsuit as a way to disparage CV Link,” Felci said after learning of the lawsuit. “The project’s funding sources have been reviewed and supported many times over the years. Our attorney will address them again in court while we remain focused on finishing construction of the project’s first phase.”
Felci has repeatedly stood by her comment and has also reiterated that CVAG will not be commenting on pending litigation. CVAG is the lead agency on the project.
The future of a controversial $100 million, 50-mile transportation corridor in the Coachella Valley is in jeopardy after a lawsuit was filed alleging “illegal” funds are being used to build it. Construction on the controversial, 50-mile transportation corridor in the Coachella Valley was scheduled to begin in January. The project is reportedly going to create 690 jobs, according to the CV Link website.
In a recent tape-recorded interview, a headstrong Ferguson refused to let the interview end without the opportunity to set the record straight, he said.
“I want to clarify for the record, for the umpteenth time, I did not refer to CVAG as thugs,” Ferguson said. “I referred to Tom Kirk as a thug.”
It was at a meeting about a year and a half ago, Ferguson recalled.
Tom texted me and said, “We’re thugs?” And I said, “No. You are. And if you’d like to go have lunch, I’ll explain to you why I feel that way.”
Ferguson said he and Kirk, executive director of CVAG, have a “very good relationship” and went to lunch.
“I told him why I thought he was being a thug,” Ferguson explained.
He said older office-holders are extremely sensitive about their age and Kirk was discussing generational change with “unnecessary abuses.” Ferguson said Rancho Mirage City Councilman Dana Hobart and his wife were there and the comments “hurt them deeply.”
“It was completely unnecessary,” Ferguson said. “That’s why I called him a thug.”
Never, Ferguson said, did he verbally blanket all CVAG employees at thugs.
“There are many, if not most, at CVAG who do their jobs exceptionally well and whom I respect a great deal, Ferguson said. “I don’t think it fair or ethical to state as a fact that my thoughts about Tom’s tactics should be imputed to them across the board — especially as it has nothing to do with the taxpayer lawsuit and most particularly since Tom knew the truth. He never should have let that statement go out.”