Palm Springs Chief Exits
CVA President Resigns Amid Charges of Impropriety
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
“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.