by Morton D. Rosenbaum | May 01, 2005
Michael E. Fife, 15-year president of the Palm Springs Desert Resorts Convention and Visitors Authority, was asked to resign in March, after allegations of financial impropriety.
    The CVA, serving eight cities and one county in California’s Coachella Valley, began an investigation when staffers raised an array of accusations during a meeting in early March. 
    One week later, the authority’s board dismissed all of the claims but one: Fife’s alleged “double-dipping” in the CVA’s motorist benefits policy, i.e., collecting a monthly car allowance while driving a CVA-leased car. Findings also revealed a financial oversight system that allowed Fife to sign off on his own expenses under $5,000. 
    “We’ve all been working together for about 20 years,” said Terry Henderson, a La Quinta city council member who has sat on the board since its inception 15 years ago and worked with Fife on the CVA’s predecessor organization as well. “There’s a certain amount of trust you share as a team at that point ' that can lead to a lack of oversight.”  
    Fife, who was given $104,960 in severance pay, claimed he had “decided to retire, rather than see the agency he worked so hard to build be impugned any further by allegations and rumor,” according to a public statement from CVA chairperson Tom Freeman.
    At press time, however, Fife still had not signed and returned his resignation papers. His attorney, Jon Shoenberger of Palm Springs-based Schlecht Shevlin & Shoneberger, said “there were no grounds to terminate him. We’re now examining what the best course of action is.”     
    Rob Bernheimer, CVA board member, said the negotiations at this point were focused on pension details.