The concept of “innocent until proven guilty” seems to be a concept lost on so many one-time supporters of former Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet.

So many were quick to ride his wave of popularity while he was in City Hall and even more glommed on to him when he made a bid for Congress in 2010 challenging the Republican incumbent Mary Bono. His so-called friends clung tightly to him hoping to go with him to Washington, D.C., as part of his staff.

Where are they now? Many busy themselves in a whisper campaign, pointing fingers. They have him convicted before ever hearing a shred of evidence in court. They hold themselves up as better than him. It is gut-wrenching to watch and hear. Seems there’s nothing better than kicking a man when he’s down.

I’d like to think as a society we are better than that.

I have seen one, count ‘em one, former public official come out in support of Pougnet, who stands accused of accepting bribes in exchange for his support of certain projects between 2012 and 2014. The operative word here is “accused.”

No one knows what the outcome of the accusations and charges will be, but some things are certain and no one can take those away from him.

As mayor, Pougnet was charming, charismatic, a hard worker and magnetic. He wanted to do right by all people, not just the rich and so-called famous. He was a master fundraiser and used that for a purpose bigger than himself.
Downtown thrived under his leadership and sales tax revenue increased. His list of accomplishments is many and varied and no one can take those away from him.

But the actions that speak louder than that are what he did for those in need. An avid runner, Pougnet looked forward to The Mayor’s Race, an annual run and health fair, which raised nearly $2 million for substance abuse programs, family services, and a food bank.

Never did I see him happier than the night he helped make it possible for underprivileged children in Palm Springs to walk the red carpet at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. He sponsored a contest and selected winners to join him at the head table of the Film Festival. Those children got to rub elbows with the rich and famous. It was likely a night like no other they experienced. Pougnet made that possible. It was a magnanimous gesture no mayor had ever made before.

That image, that gesture is forever imprinted in my mind.

I believe Steve Pougnet is innocent until proven guilty.