Desert Hot Springs Officer Jason Hunter Speaks for POA Endorsing Parks, Matas and Pye
DESERT HOT SPRINGS, CA – A police officer caught last year in a scandal of sexting naked pictures of himself spoke at last night’s city council meeting to endorse three city council incumbents running for re-election. He was representing the Police Officers Association.
It was only a year ago that Desert Hot Springs Police Officer Jason Hunter was caught sending naked pictures to the cell phone of a 14-year old girl. Hunter admitted the mistake, that the pictures of full frontal nudity were intended for the girl’s mother, a married woman and police dispatcher for the department.
The incident was widely publicized by Coachella Valley media, including The Desert Sun and KESQ TV news. The story also made the rounds of police association newsletters across the country.
Sex Pics Police Officer Delivers
The endorsement of Mayor Yvonne Parks and council members Scott Matas and Jan Pye by the POA was unexpected. The membership had previously voted to refrain from making political endorsements. The surprise was the delivery of the endorsement by the police officer stained by sex scandal.
The turn-around in an endorsement position ties into POA efforts regarding ongoing contract negotiations and the city’s budget deficit.
For the last two years Parks, Matas and Pye have been united in resisting spending reductions to avert a looming city financial crisis. Desert Hot Springs books are out of balance with the city spending 25% more than the income it receives.
That leaves the city council with only two options, either cut spending or raise taxes. The POA is looking for the city council to raise taxes, figuring that is the best way to hold onto salary and benefit increases gained for its members in recent years.
Desert Hot Springs has invested heavily in its police force, including significantly cranking up salaries in the past few years. As a result, the Desert Hot Springs Police Department has eleven officers earning over $200,000 per year.
Big Money Deals
A vote of the council was scheduled in August that would have added $980,000 a year to the city’s costs for POA member’s salary and benefits. However, sensing it did not have the votes, the POA requested the agenda item be removed from consideration which the council did.
The contract will be reconsidered by the council after the election and the POA is gambling that Parks, Matas and Pye will win re-election and improve their chances for winning that POA pay increase.
The city’s budget deficit is projected at between $3.5 million and $4 million, a deficit that amounts to 25% of the city’s budget. This year’s spending will nearly exhaust the city’s $4.2 million in savings.
It’s human nature to ask for as much as you can get. The job of the city council is to hold the line and manage the budget responsibly. The question at Tuesday’s council meeting was why the POA used Hunter as their spokesperson given his history.
Sex Pics Devastating to 14-year-old Girl
That history includes shock by the mother and her husband.
“It’s been overwhelming and devastating because my daughter is the one who looked at those photos… it’s impacted her life in a negative way,” said Areceli McDougall – the mother of the teenager – in an interview with KESQ reporter Laura Ynez in August, 2012.
McDougall said her complaints about Officer Hunter’s sexting to her daughter initially fell on deaf ears. Only when McDougall’s husband filed a complaint with the Desert Hot Springs Police Department did the department take action. Hunter received a one day suspension.
In response to McDougall, Chief Kate Singer acknowledged in a letter to her that the nude pictures of Officer Jason Hunter were taken by him and sent by him to McDougall’s daughter’s cell phone.
For over 40 years Dean has been published in a variety of small newspapers and magazines. As publisher he founded an alternative city weekly newspaper in 2008 and published over 200 uninterrupted issues over 4 years to over 20,000 readers via 800 locations (and online) before selling the business. Now online with over 3 million readers worldwide.
Dean is a Master Carpenter and the author of the biography of Hilda M Gray, desert homesteader. He served as Planning Commissioner for the city of Desert Hot Springs from January 2014 to January 2015 when he resigned.
Dean M Gray is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors and lives in Desert Hot Springs, California.