Supervisors Pay Reduction Measure Opponents Citing Postmus In Campaign

(September 21)  The opponents of Measure R, an initiative to reduce the compensation of San Bernardino County supervisors by 72.6 percent, are seeking to discredit the measure by associating it with former supervisor and assessor Bill Postmus.
Last year, Wrightwood resident and former grand jury member Kieran “Red” Brennan launched what seemed a Quixotic effort to gather the 43,250 signatures needed on a petition to put before the voters a countywide initiative that would reduce San Bernardino County supervisors’ annual $151,971 salaries and $67,500 in benefits to $50,000 in salary and $10,000 in benefits annually, a drop in total compensation from $219,471 per year to $60,000. Brennan’s seemingly impossible undertaking was furthered when he coordinated with Eric Steinmann, a wealthy entrepreneur who bankrolled, and thereby significantly advanced,  Brennan’s signature gathering effort.
In the same time frame, the board of supervisors raised the ire of the county’s two largest unions – the San Bernardino Public Employees Association and the Safety Employees Benefit Association – by proposing that those unions make salary and benefit concessions with regard to their existing labor contracts or otherwise face layoffs of substantial numbers of their members. When the board followed that request up with an open discussion of a ballot initiative putting future pension increases for county employees up to a public vote, the unions joined in with Steinmann and Brennan in their petition effort. By March, their collective efforts resulted in the gathering of 73,672 signatures, qualifying the supervisors’ pay reduction measure for the November ballot. The county registrar of voters later designated that initiative “Measure R.”
Alarmed at this development, a majority of the board of supervisors in July invoked their privilege as elected officials and placed a measure on the November ballot designed to counteract the Brennan/Steinmann/public employee union-sponsored measure, one that would reduce the supervisors’ salaries by a more moderate amount  – a $5,269 trimming to $146,702.per year, while allowing their $67,500 annual benefits to remain in place.  That initiative has since been designated “Measure Q.”
The proponents of Measure R insist that Measure Q is a cynical attempt at sleight-of-hand to fool the voters and have them accept a bogus version of reform. Four of the current supervisors and the other proponents of Measure Q insist that the impetus behind the qualification of Measure R for the ballot was the unions’ animus at the board for seeking to reduce spending in a context of dwindling revenue availability for local governments.
Recently, Measure R opponents have seized upon information they have come across to indicate that Bill Postmus played what they consider to be a crucial role in drafting Measure R’s language and then qualifying it for the ballot.
Postmus less than a decade ago was the most powerful political entity in San Bernardino County. In 2000, at the age of 29, he was elected First District supervisor, having launched himself into that position from the post of president of the High Desert Young Republicans. In 2004, he was reelected supervisor and acceded to the position of chairman of the board of supervisors. Moreover, he was elected chairman of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee. He was widely viewed as a likely future candidate for California Assembly, state Senate or Congress. In 2006, he was elected county assessor. By 2008, however, Postmus’ political career began to unravel, as he was beset with widening reports of drug use and in January 2009 he was arrested for drug possession when investigators looking into reports of abuses of authority at the assessor’s office serving a search warrant at his condominium found methamphetamine, the drug extacy and drug paraphernalia. He resigned a year later. In 2010 he was indicted on political corruption, bribery, extortion, perjury and conspiracy charges. In 2011, he pleaded guilty to a total of 14 counts contained in that indictment.
According to information provided to the Sentinel, those campaigning against Measure R are now resolved to utilize Postmus’s fall from grace and the disrepute he suffered in that fall in making a case against the initiative to radically curtail supervisors’ pay and benefits.
Postmus, opponents of Measure R are set to allege, was the go-between who put Brennan in contact with Steinmann at that crucial moment last year when the flickering flame of the signature-gathering  effort for the supervisor compensation reduction initiative was about to blow out.  By tying Postmus to the Measure R effort, opponents believe voters can be convinced to reject the initiative as one of questionable pedigree or dishonorable provenance.
Brennan, however, told the Sentinel “That’s not the case. I know them both [Steinmann and Postmus].  I don’t know Bill Postmus as well as Eric. Eric’s a neighbor.”
Brennan said he did not believe Postmus had any involvement in the effort to gather petitions to qualify the measure for the ballot or to promote the measure now that it is headed to a vote.
“I can only speak from what I have experienced, but I have not seen Bill at all,” Brennan said.
He said his motive in creating the initiative and pushing to get it before the county’s voters was simply that “I believe the county supervisors are overpaid for what they do. It may be a full time job, but from what little I’ve seen, they are not working full time. Even if it were a full time job, that is a lot of money to get paid. They are paid more than some CEOs get in the private sector.”
Measure Q, which was put forth by the supervisors, was requested by supervisor Gary Ovitt, a onetime Posmus ally, who asked the county counsel’s office to draft it. Measure Q makes no provision for a reduction in the supervisors’ staffs. Steinmann and Brennan’s measure calls for their combined staff budgets to be reduced from $6 million to $1.5 million a year.
In putting their measure on the November ballot, the supervisors referenced this year’s grand jury report, which was critical of Steinmann and Brennan’s proposed reduction in supervisor pay.
The San Bernardino Public Employees Association and San Bernardino Safety Employees Benefit Association spent roughly $100,000 in the effort to qualify Steinmann and Brennan’s measure for the ballot.

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