Op-Ed by Branson Hunter. This story has been been edited and revised. It is now Part I of a two part series. New revelations have surfaced. Those revelations are in both this revised story and in Part II. Part II will be posted later.
For the last decade Cactus Thorns has been a watchdog for taxpayers. Many stories have been posted about local personality Gary Daigneault and his influence over the 29 Palms City Council crony-men. This is because Council Cronies fall short on leadership. They have demonstrated a lack of talent to do much of anything but spend money on projects that have no priority whatsoever and hand out awards.
There is so much going on in our area that needs to be addressed. However, Gary Daigneault never ceased to manipulate the cronies on the council and the council crony-men never cease to follow Gary’s self-serving bizarre whims. Daigneault is a persuasive talker; an accomplished “honey mouth.” So here we are blogging again about taxpayers ripoffs. Gary asked the question during his March 14 Friday Up Close show: “Why are people so suspicious in the Morongo Basin?” <wink, wink>. Of course he knows the answer to that question. He is part of the problem along with council cronies tycoons that serve Gary and local insiders.
Yes, Gary does a whole lot for the the basin communities. Yes, Gary is a good person. Yes, no malice is directed at him. Yes, it’s good ol’ fashion criticism and parodies directed at him for good cause, yes council cronies are good people, yes they are careless and stupid; yes no malice intended. The issue of another slick money grab has surfaced and, once again, Project Phoenix (hereinafter “PP”) is in the limelight. Gary put it to issue by obtaining funding for the $18,000 grant design and conceptual work on the PP sketches. It remains a conundrum exactly where those funds came from. Therefore we are revisiting the matter. See Part II.
In an email Gary writes “The proposal was brought to County Supervisor Mitzelfelt who authorized an $18,000.00 grant for design and conceptual work on the project.” One of Cactus Thorns ace investigators contacted the Supervisor office back in the day to verify this. His spokesperson said they had no knowledge that Mitzefelt used discretionary funds that were given to Daigenault. I don’t think Daigneault is pulling this out of thin air but it remains a mystery. What is so outrageous, too, is Daigneault arbitrarily spending “$4,000.00 of the $18K to be used for fund-raising materials brochures, displays etc.” Who put Gary in charge of $18K of public funds for his own self-serving use without the matter being voted on by the cronies on the council? Do you really believe all the spin and cover-up?
And the remaining $14 thousand for Sketch # 1 (see below) is preposterous. A drafting student could have sketch both designs shown below.
This is the biggest ripoff of taxpayers money alongside the city’s abject debt of $31 M for PP. Make no mistake about it, Gary is directly responsible for the city debt in a very large way. He is challenged to show otherwise. City staff is also responsible. So is the nitwit RSG Consultant, Matt McCleary. The weight of it all rests on the shoulders of five city council cronies, one of which lost his reelection bid to new comer, Councilwoman Core Heiser.
Morongo Basin resident Robert Nelson forwarded this Cactus Thorn email to me. Back in the day, Mr. Nelson asked Gary (via email) questions about the inner working and back story of this entire PP fiasco. Here is the text of Mr. Nelson’s email to Mr. Daigneault:
Robert Nelson to Gary Daigneault:
Who proposed that a new building be built and funded? Who in county government was that proposal brought to? What route did that proposal take from initial thought to having planning done and paid for? Who authorized the funds for the planning? Exactly – to the penny – where did the money go?
Gary Daigneault’s (response) to Robert Nelson:
Robert, Good questions, I will answer as best I can. The new building was proposed by the Board of Directors of Theatre 29. The existing facility was never meant to be a theater and has been outgrown. The proposal was brought to County Supervisor Mitzelfelt who authorized an $18,000.00 grant for design and conceptual work on the project. $14,000.00 went to the architectural firm, selected ater (sic) an RFP was sent to 20 theater architects troughout (sic) California. $4,000.00 is allocated for fund-raising materials (brochures, displays etc.). City Planning Consultant Frank Spevacek and City Manager Michael Tree suggested the downtown location as a way to revitalize the area. Mr. Tree atually (sic) came to a Theatre 29 Board meeting to pitch it.
Mr. Nelson discloses that Gary “somehow believes what was recently published in Cactus Thorns makes it appear he (Gary) was being evasive” during his “on air” discussion about the implementation of funds for an electronic sign. For a copy of Gary’s email of discontent, see Part II of this story soon to be published.
There is a disquieting backstory to this. Just as there is an alarming backstory to the entire PP fiasco: the “wheeling & dealing” money grab for public funds, the planning of PP and the amazing costly new state of the art performing arts theater Gary and Theater 29 leaders continue to salivate over. All told, given the totality of every thing, Gary and his cronies on the council and theater leaders have undermined the public’s trust and put the city squarely in debt for the next 30 years.
City Council Member at that time, Steve Spear, an eight year council veteran, has come forward with new evidence that sheds some light of his experiences about and what he knows concerning Daignault’s email of discontent. See Part II of this story.
Sketch 1: The first architect design plan that playhouse people wanted taxpayers to build. It costs $14 thousand for this sketch?
The playhouse leaders and the then Chamber of Commerce, some leaders of which are board members for Theatre 29, actually got very greedy. They rejected this plan and opted for the more costly Sketch # 2 shown below. In doing so, they pissed away $18, 000 of public funds for the sketch # 1 including propaganda money to placate the general public. Does anyone actually believe Gary’s fairy tale that all this was done in the open before the city council? Or do you believe there are backroom deals and conspiracies that fly in the face of open government and transparency.
Below is the second design they wanted, housed in the basement of another duplicated PP community center ($9.8 million).
Status/Results/Update: $31 Million bond debt; $1 million attorney fees; a few hundred thousand for administration and consultants; litigation in the Sacramento Superior Court which may be appealed by the city; and come June the city will be underfunded, in abject debt, no annual reserve funds to carry over and spending more money than it has coming in. Why? Because cronies on the council plundered public funds. A new 29 Palms Theme “Desert Oasis: “Cronies Serving Cronies”.
Ladies and gentlemen, in my best opinion what we have are four headstrong dupes and harlots seated on the city council. We have Gary always testing the winds for more taxpayers dollars for his personal nonprofit pet projects with no regard for public input or the cost to taxpayers.
Neither Gary or crony councilmen seem to care about pissing away this $18 K, the $31 million bond debt, or the $300,ooo something for administrative and consulting costs. They are all shysters playing lose with public funds in my opinion. The whole lot. Including bad legal advise bond specialist/city attorney A. Patrick Munoz — who the Attorney General has severely criticized in incriminating documents filed in court. The Attorney General is disgusted that Munoz has earned a million bucks in connection with his PP scandal with nothing to show but for advising a willing city council to violate California law. Both Munoz and RSG Consultant McCleary have “dirty hands” according to the the AG.
Is it time for a change on the city council? Bottom line, the next seated council will have to clean-up the mess and deal with a fiscal crises.
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