Desert Hot Springs Mayor Yvonne Parks speaks during an April 2010 press conference about the Wellness & World Music Festival. (Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun)
When the city signed a $250,000 deal with Tony Clarke to put on the Wellness and World Music Festival, the event was billed as a “world-class signature event” that could brand the city using its signature mineral springs.
But with one month until show time, the city announced the festival would be postponed — just days after the city handed over the final payment to the producer.
A Desert Sun investigation found that, when the city first hired Clarke in December 2009, it did not verify Clarke’s claims that he was an internationally known producer. It also paid Clarke an additional $15,000 to conduct a feasibility report on the festival.
The city did not solicit bids for the contract, skipping a series of steps outlined in its municipal code that call for a competitive recruitment process and thorough vetting of potential contractors before signing a consulting or professional services contract.
It eventually fired Clarke and vowed to revive the festival plans. On Tuesday, the City Council officially abandoned those plans.
Here’s a deeper review of how the plan progressed:
Dec. 1, 2009: Desert Hot Springs inks a $250,000 deal with Tony Clarke and his Tresed Ventures to be the primary sponsor of the first Wellness and World Music Festival.
Dec. 22, 2009: The city begins payments to Clarke with a $75,000 payment for “out-of-pocket” expenses.
June 28, 2010: Organizers announce that reggae singer Ziggy Marley will headline the festival. Health/lifestyle personalities; yoga trainers; and best-selling authors such as Rodney Yee, Colleen Saidman Yee and Dr. Steven Gundry will also join.
Aug. 19, 2010: The final $25,000 wire transaction is made, completing the $250,000 contract. The city’s then-liaison with Clarke, Laura Green, added in an email exchange among city staff: “I guess we’re all in. … Deep breath.”
Sept. 7, 2010: With weeks to go before the Oct. 9-10 show time, but no ticket sale details announced, City Manager Rick Daniels announces a postponement, saying “we over-reached. We tried to do too much in too short a time.”
Jan. 4, 2011: Producers Baruch/Gayton Entertainment Group, which is named in the contract to co-produce the festival, back out of the festival. “There have been financial problems with Tony. He owes us money. He owes others money, who we have brought into the project,” Wayne Baruch told The Desert Sun at the time.
Jan. 16, 2011: The Desert Sun publishes a front-page investigation into the festival. Among the findings was that the city never verified any of Clarke’s claims of being a world-famous producer who has worked on major record labels and produced events with the likes of Johnny Cash, Michael Jackson and Nirvana.
March 1, 2011: The City Council met for at least the fifth time in closed session to consider a lawsuit against the promoter. Back in open session, council members argued over whether to reschedule the music festival for the fall.
March 15, 2011: Clarke signs legal paperwork to end his contract with Desert Hot Springs. As part of the agreement, Clarke will hand over all work on the festival. That includes parking, security and staging plans, as well as deposits on unspecified key talent and sponsors.
Aug. 30, 2011: In documents released to The Desert Sun under the public records law, Clarke claims he spent at least $247,321 on the festival. It lists broad categories like office supplies, professional services and travel.
May 24, 2011: The City Council chose five advisory committee members — two others were separately chosen by a city commission and a hotel advocacy group — to act as a festival advisory committee that would decide who could replace the festival producer.
Nov. 14, 2012: After meeting for more than a year, and reviewing three rounds of producers’ proposals, the advisory committee asks to be disbanded.
Dec. 4, 2012: The City Council agrees to disband the festival committee, without any comment.