Did Judy Deertrack and Robert Julian Stone hurt their chances in the Palm Springs City Council election on Tuesday by outing themselves as “whistleblowers” and taking credit for bringing down the once-popular mayor of Palm Springs?
Did voters view them as assets or liabilities? Did residents see them as whistleblowers that pulled back the curtain on alleged corruption or snitches not to be trusted?
There is no way to tell for sure, but both Deertrack and Stone told Uken Report that their efforts to expose Pougnet and a pair of developers likely hurt their chances for victory.
Deertrack, 67, a land use consultant, attorney, said she “stood up” when she saw things amiss in City Hall. When asked what she would do to restore trust in City Hall, Deertrack told Uken Report, “I have already accomplished the FBI probe.”
Stone told Uken Report that he and Deertrack built a case over “many, many months of hard work” to bring down Pougnet.
“We received no money for our efforts and expected none,” Stone said. “We brought it to the in April 10 of 2015 and the 31 felony counts that are currently pending against our former mayor and two local developers are precisely based upon the case we brought to the public corruption task force.”
The pair held a news conference to announce what they had done.
Their efforts to expose alleged bribery and other crimes clearly did not catapult them to victory in the Nov. 7 City Council election. Stone placed fourth in the six-person race; Deertrack came in fifth.
Lisa Middleton made history as the first transgender person elected to a non-judicial office in California. Christy Holstege, who was the first millennial to seek a seat on the five-member City Council, also won. The pair will fill the seats vacated by Chris Mills and Ginny Foat.
On Wednesday, Deertrack said she believes her role in Pougnet’s downfall played a role in her loss but this was no ordinary election.
“I think the city is very, very sensitive to the pending indictments,” Deertrack said. “There is a lot of embarrassment and denial that surrounds these incidents, which is a very human response. The city wants to move on and see this as in the hands of FBI and District Attorney.”
Deertrack added, “This election was very complex, and centered around anger at Trump and the desire of the LGBTQ community and its many supporters to show strength and participation in elected offices. I am proud of that heritage.”
Stone did not back down from any role he played in the FBI probe and hints that even more corruption exists.
“They went for the gospel of the good news, because that is simply easier to swallow,” Stone told Uken Report of the voters in the Tuesday election. “I certainly would be on constant vigil to ferret out corruption at City Hall. Building that case for the FBI/US Attorney placed me in the position of whistleblower (a term that greatly oversimplifies my role). Over the last seven months, I came to understand that the nature and extent of corruption in Palm Springs is even greater than I knew. It permeates every level of government inside City Hall, and all the many people on the outside who benefit financially from maintaining the status quo.”
There is little difference between Palm Springs today and the old “Bell, California Council of Shame, Stone said, referring to the scandal that rocked Bell, Calif., in 2010. Eight current and former Bell city officials were arrested and charged with misappropriation of funds and making or receiving illegal loans. The charges allege the officials misappropriated more than $5.5 million, including being paid for phantom meetings.
“The primary difference is that in Bell, seven people took all the money for themselves,” Stone said. “In Palm Springs, they spread it around more liberally and the selective disbursal of public funds to private developers and employee unions keep the system in place ….”
Stone said he took on the entire entrenched political establishment.
“The sitting council members looked at the field of candidates and chose to endorse the two people they could control absolutely,” Stone said. “They managed and financed their campaigns, and they set out to annihilate every other bona fide candidate. They got what they wanted. That’s what happened. And unlike Hillary, I don’t need a book-length work to break it down.”