September 1, 2015 / 7:45 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 4-FBI agents raid Palm Springs city hall, employees sent home

(Updates with items seized from mayor’s apartment)

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES, Sept 1 (Reuters) - FBI agents and a local public corruption task force raided Palm Springs City Hall armed with search warrants on Tuesday, sending home employees and closing the offices for the day, an FBI spokeswoman said.

Laura Eimiller of the FBI’s Los Angeles office said she could not disclose the nature of the searches, which were conducted with members of the so-called Inland Empire Public Corruption Task Force, because the case was under seal.

Eimiller said no suspects had been taken into custody in the desert resort community about 110 miles (177 km) east of Los Angeles and that no arrests were planned on Tuesday.

“We arrived at about 9 a.m. and expect to be out here for several hours, if not all day,” she said.

Law enforcement agents could be seen coming and going from the shuttered Palm Springs City Hall offices and removing at least one box of material.

Eimiller said several items covered under the search warrants were also seized from the apartment of Mayor Steve Pougnet.

She said the apartment was not subject to a separate search warrant. It was not immediately clear if Pougnet, who also has a residence in Colorado with his husband and two children, was home at the time the items were retrieved.

The raid comes some three months after the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission opened an investigation into links between Pougnet and a real estate developer.

That investigation followed reports in the Desert Sun about the mayor’s business relationships with that developer and an editorial saying he owed voters an explanation.

Pougnet responded in a post on his website in May that with the editorial the newspaper “threw their hat in with the handful of politically motivated detractors who have made accusations about my job as a consultant and my integrity as your mayor.”

Pougnet, a 52-year-old Democrat who was first elected mayor of Palm Springs in 2007, announced in that same post that he would not seek reelection in 2015.

Eimiller declined to say if the FBI raid was connected in any way to the mayor.

The mayor did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment by Reuters on Tuesday morning.

Eimiller declined to say if the FBI raid was connected in any way to the mayor. (Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Sam Mircovich in Palm Springs; Editing by Sandra Maler and Lisa Lambert)

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