County Legal Bill Defending Desert H2O Project Hits $1.8 Million

(January 14)  The county of San Bernardino’s legal costs precipitated by its 2012 acquiescence in the Santa Margarita Water District’s approval of the so-called Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project last year have now exceeded $1.8 million.
Eleven separate lawsuits challenging the  Cadiz Valley water project, which upon completion will extract an average of 50,000 acre-feet of water from the East Mojave Desert annually and convey it via pipeline to Orange and Los Angeles counties for use there, have been filed in San Bernardino County, Orange County and in U.S. District Court.
The lawsuits allege that the project will drain the aquifer in both the Cadiz Valley and nearby Fenner Valley, wreaking environmental harm, that the approval process for the project which allowed a water district in Orange County more than 217 miles from the  project area to serve as the lead agency for the project and oversee its environmental certification violated state and federal environmental laws, that the county of San Bernardino failed to abide by its own desert groundwater management plan in approving the project, that the environmental impact report for the project was inadequate,  that approval of the project violated provisions of both the National Historic Preservation Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act,  that the Bureau of Land Management failed to conduct a proper review of the cultural and environmental impacts of the project; that the extraction of the water will interfere with salt mining and other pre-existing industrial operations in the area, and other issues.
Plaintiffs included Delaware Tetra Technologies, which operates a salt and mineral mine in the Fenner Valley, the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the International Union of North America Local No. 783, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Colorado River Branch of the Archaeological Heritage Association, Santa Margarita Citizens and Ratepayers Opposing Water Nonsense, and Rodrigo Briones.
The project is an undertaking of Los Angeles-based Cadiz, Inc., which since the 1980s has operated a 500-acre organic grape, citrus, melon and pepper farm in the Cadiz Valley. Cadiz, Inc. arranged to have the Santa Margarita Water District, to which it is contracted to deliver a portion of the water to be extracted from the desert, to assume lead agency status for the project’s approval. Many of those opposed to the project considered that to be a conflict of interest. San Bernardino County contemplated, but in March 2012 ultimately elected against, challenging Orange County-based Santa Margarita’s assumption of that lead agency status on the project and instead on May 1, 2012 entered into a memorandum of understanding with that district and Cadiz, Inc. and its corporate entities, including the Fenner Valley Mutual Water Company, allowing Santa Margarita to oversee the environmental impact report for the project and conduct the public hearings related to project approval.
On July 31, 2012, the Santa Margarita Water District Board of Directors approved the Cadiz Water Project and certified the environmental impact report for the Cadiz Water project.
On October 1, 2012, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors gave approval to a groundwater monitoring plan to facilitate completion of the project.
The project generated a flurry of lawsuits in which San Bernardino County, Santa Margarita and Cadiz, Inc. have been named as defendants. Even before those lawsuits materialized, the county, on March 27, 2012, retained the San Francisco-based law firm of Downey Brand to assist county counsel in responding to any lawsuits it contemplated might be triggered by the project at what was then said to be a not-to-exceed cost of $449,322. Within four months, however, those funds had been exhausted and on July 24, 2012, the board authorized a $250,000 amendment to the Downey Brand contract, increasing the amount to $699,332.  Legal billings to the county by Downey Brand ate up that funding by December 2012, and Christine Kelly, who was then county land use services director, asked the board to give approval for the expenditure of another $250,000 to cover continuing legal costs, pushing the Downey Brand contract to $949,332. Downey Brand’s total billing to the county exceeded the million dollar mark before 2013 was half over and on June 18 the board of supervisors complied with a request by Tom Hudson, who succeeded Kelly as the county director of land use services, to increase the contract with Downey Brand by $500,000 from $949,332 to $1,449,332. This week, nearly seven months later,  Hudson called upon the board of supervisors to “increase the existing contract with Downey
Brand LLP for legal services by $400,000, from $1,449,332 to $1,849,332.”
Hudson told the supervisors Downey Brand’s services are needed “as a result of on-going legal challenges relating to the 2012 Groundwater Management, Monitoring and Mitigation Plan and the memorandum of understanding by and among the Santa Margarita Water District, Cadiz, Inc., the Fenner Valley Mutual Water Company and the county.”
The county finds itself pressured inside and outside the courts for having relinquished oversight over the project to the Santa Margarita Water District, which approved the environmental impact report for the project, despite data provided by biologists and hydrologists contradicting that report. Among those inveighing against the project is U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has publicly stated that the project’s proposed extraction of more than one million acre-feet of water from the Eastern Mojave Desert over the 50-year life of the project will significantly exceed the United States Geological Survey’s estimate of the area’s recharge capability.
Environmentalists insist Cadiz has cynically overrepresented the amount of annual precipitation recharging the groundwater basins in the Cadiz and Fenner valleys, and that springs linked to those ground water basins within the Mojave National Preserve and the plants and animals that depend on them are thus under threat.
Among those condemning the county’s approval of the project is John Goss, a former assistant administrative officer with San Bernardino County who drafted the county’s desert groundwater management ordinance before it was adopted in 2002. Goss said that ordinance was violated when the memorandum of understanding between the county, Cadiz, Inc. and the Santa Margarita Water District had been entered into before a groundwater management plan for the Cadiz project was adopted.
A prime mover in the county’s acquiescence in Santa Margarita’s approval of the project was former First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, who left office after he did not run for reelection in 2012 when he instead unsuccessfully vied for Congress. Mitzelfelt, whose district included the Eastern Mojave, received $48,100 in political donations from Cadiz, Inc.
The project’s proponents, including Scott Slater, the general counsel for Cadiz, Inc., insists the project is a “responsible and environmentally safe” one that “protects the desert” and provides thirsty Southern California with “an innovative water supply option.”
County officials maintain the county’s taxpayers are not being hurt by the litigation.
In keeping with Section 24 of the memorandum of understanding and the conditions of approval adopted on October 1, 2012, the county is indemnified against any action challenging the county’s approval of the
Cadiz Project, Groundwater Monitoring Management and Mitigation Plan or the memoranducm of understanding,” Hudson said. “The indemnity includes, but is not limited to, damages, cost of suit, attorneys’ fees, expert consultant or witness fees, and other expenses incurred in connection with any such action. To date, the county has been reimbursed by the Santa Margarita Water District, Cadiz, Inc., and the Fenner Valley Mutual Water Company in the amount of $1,301,726.”
The county’s legal costs growing out of the Cadiz Water Project are now mounting. While two of those lawsuits have been litigated to completion or have been dropped, nine remain active and proceeded to trial on December 3, 2013.
An issue in the lawsuit brought by Santa Margarita Citizens and Ratepayers Opposing Water Nonsense pertains to the Santa Margarita Water District’s assumption of the financial liability of other parties involved with the project approval. Opponents of the project have questioned whether Cadiz, Inc., an agricultural and landholding company that owns or has options to buy 45,000 acres in the eastern Mojave Desert overlying the Cadiz and Fenner valleys’ aquifers but which has nonetheless not shown a profit for more than 15 years, will be able to sustain itself in the face of the legal challenges to the project. Those inveighing against the project not on environmental grounds but financial ones have questioned who will assume the company’s liabilities if it folds or declares bankruptcy.

Upland Razes Second Homeless Encampment, Scattering Scores To The Streets

(January 15)  UPLAND—For the second time in the last 11 months, Upland municipal officials bulldozed a homeless encampment, scattering several score of those who were living there to other locations within and outside the City of Gracious Living.
Close to 100 people had settled into a location in the 2100 block of 11th Street at what is the city’s farthest west extension, just east of the city limits separating the city from Claremont at the San Bernardino County/Los Angeles County line.
Several of those dislocated from the makeshift neighborhood said they had been encouraged to move there by Upland police officers and Upland Mayor Raymond Musser after the city had in late February 2013 used its code enforcement division to encourage the owners of vacant property along Route 66 between Benson and Central avenues – i.e.,the 1700 to 1900 block of Foothill Boulevard – to bulldoze an approximately 40-acre patch of dense chaparral and undeveloped property that had been a haven for dozens of homeless.
The property that was cleared of its denizens this week, which dead ends at a fenced large gravel wash separating Upland from Claremont, has no clear owner and is shown as an encumbered asset per an ongoing bankruptcy proceeding. The site is one block south of Route 66, the scene of a similar unfortunate migration of the poor and hungry during the Great Depression described in the novel by John Steinbeck “Grapes of Wrath.”
With no owner to register a complaint about the uninvited habitants, many had lived there virtually unmolested for the last nine months.
Asserting that neighboring businesses and property owners had complained about the presence of homeless on the vacant property south of 11th Street and west of Central Avenue, officials went to court last week seeking a temporary restraining and obtained a court order on January 9, allowing them to give those encamped there a 72-hour notice to remove themselves and their belongings. Notice of the order was served immediately.
Police returned on January 13, informing those remaining that they had to vacate the premises by 2:45 p.m. Monday upon pain of their items being destroyed by a bulldozer. That time deadline elapsed but at 7 a.m. on January 14, four police officers and four city maintenance workers arrived, armed with two huge trash bins and bulldozers. Some of the more nimble squatters managed to drag their belongings – bicycles, blankets, clothes, sleeping bags, baby strollers and other wheeled carriers and in some case bicycles – onto the sidewalk as the bulldozers chortled to life and moved into place to begin clearing the lot.
Showing they meant business, city employees utilized the bulldozers to demolish the entirety of the encampment, using the front scoops of Caterpillars to dig into what had been people’s abodes, collecting up sleeping bags, blankets, tents, folding chairs and other items, then emptying them into the dumpsters.
Janine Batty, who had lived in the encampment north of Foothill and south of Cable Airport until last February, said she had moved to the 11th Street location after “the city of Upland bulldozed our other camp.  It was not weed abatement as they told everyone.  The mayor told us to come over here  [11th street].  We listened and obeyed.  I am a mother of four and a grandmother of four.  I am homeless as of October,   2012.  The city of Ontario took my home.   I am thankful for property that I am on [11th street].  We are blessed.  The church brings food for us.    Without a tent, I will get sick and die.  I cannot be in the sun.  I have a condition where I get real sick if I am in the sun.”
While the bulldozing was yet taking place, one of the encampment’s occupants told the Sentinel,   “Some nice folks gave me a tent that was probably worth about $2,000 when they bought it.  It was a good tent and I was living in it.  I rolled it up in a ball, but couldn’t carry it out myself.” She broke off her narrative and then said, “I wonder if the police will save it for me.?  I’m going to go down there and ask them.”  She then approached a group of police officers and city mainentance workers and asked them if they would set her tent aside for her. They refused and what had been her home was scooped up and discarded into one of the dumpsters. She merely shrugged her shoulders as she walked away,  shaking her head, a grimace of resigned hopelessness flashing across her face. Her male companion, laboring to keep all of his worldly possessions balanced on a  baby stroller hooked to a bike, was unable to assist her.
City officials said they had offered those displaced services, including having the San Bernardino County Department of Homeless Services visit the encampment on January 10 and 11 to see if any of those there might qualify for temporary housing or other forms of assistance, but on Tuesday morning most streamed in all directions away from the site, on their own.
Several of those who had been living at the encampment told the Sentinel that they had requested that city officials provide them with a dumpster months ago, when city officials had carried out an inspection of the property and asked how they could be of help. No dumpster was forthcoming until January 14, when the two giant trash bins were hauled in to serve as receptacles for the contents of the scoops of the fast acting bulldozers.
City officials have long been cognizant of the crude encampments that had proliferated in the field of chaparral just south of Cable Airport, where bedraggled shelters were begrudgingly tolerated. That property is and was owned by the Bongiovanni Corporation, with diverse holdings and a construction company empire that is focused elsewhere. The Bongiovanni family had for years made no effort to evict the uninvited settlers but was prompted to render the property less habitable last year when the city cited it for excessive vegetation. The use of bulldozers to clear the property resulted in the residents leaving, many or most of them to the 11th street location razed this week.
There was also a proliferation of homeless at Memorial Park. City officials, meaning the police, have grown increasingly more draconian with the people dwelling at that location in an effort to persuade them to leave. Many of those had migrated to the 11th Street lot, as well.
The issue had come to a head less than 24 hours before, at the January 13 city council meeting, where the council took up an emergency ordinance making it illegal to camp or store personal items in city streets or public places anywhere within the Upland City Limits. As an emergency ordinance, it became effective immediately upon passage. For good measure, the council also approved a non-emergency version of the same ordinance.
That night, the council chambers was flooded with people inveighing against the action the council was contemplating and the evictions of those subsisting at the 11th Street encampment that was to take place the next morning. The pleas to have the city council rethink its strategy for dealing with the homeless and either rescind or not enforce the court order did not persuade or dissuade the council from the action it ultimately took.
Michael Averkiou, a representative with the faith-based organization Calvary Chapel, requested that the council hold off on enforcing the restraining order for a month to give those being displaced an opportunity to save what meager possession they had and make an orderly transition.
“Why not give these people 30 days?” Averkiou asked. “Why does it have to be so abrupt?”
Averkiou asserted that giving the homeless the bum’s rush would likely result in creating a legal crisis. “They don’t have anywhere to go,” he said. “Any place they go, they are going to get cited.”
Steve Wade, an attorney who was formerly based in Upland who has since relocated his office in Claremont, said the action the city had initiated was unconstitutional and insensitive.
He called the city’s action heavy-handed and counterproductive to the goal of achieving a lasting and meaningful solution.
In remarks to the Sentinel prior to Monday’s meeting, Wade said he believed that property owners’ rights should be respected but that “I merely suggest that the manner in which it is being conducted, with encampments being bulldozed, along with all of the worldly possessions of the residents, is inhumane and illegal. The city…  has a responsibility to do this in a humane and orderly process, providing an alternate place for the residents, at least on a temporary basis  They are clearly the ‘least among us’ and deserving of our compassion and assistance, particularly for those willing to embrace a second chance.”
Upland City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow said the emergency ordinance is constitutional and will withstand any legal challenges, and that the city is on firm legal footing in making the evictions.

County Approves Plans For Animal Shelter Rehab

(January 14) The county board of supervisors this week approved plans and specifications for a quarter of a million dollar improvement to the Devore Animal Shelter.
According to Carl Alban, the director of the county’s architecture and engineering department, “The project budget of $250,000 is comprised of the following components: design costs of $20,000; project management and inspection costs of $23,000; security and electronics costs of $20,000; construction costs of $170,000; and a construction contingency of $17,000.”
The board of supervisors authorized the architecture and engineering department to solicit competitive bids for the Devore Animal Shelter Improvements Project located at 19777 Shelter Way in Devore.
According to Alban, “This project will achieve the goal of providing essential security improvements to mitigate continuing issues with property vandalism and theft at this facility. Over the past several years, a number of projects have been completed at the Devore Animal Shelter that include improving security for the facility; providing a secure parking area; installing a new standby generator system; providing new pet greeting and adoption areas; and making a number of much needed improvements to the administration and kennel buildings. The primary focus of this project is to increase security by adding access gates to the main road into the facility (Shelter Way) to mitigate multiple vandalism and thefts that have occurred at this facility over the past several years. If funding is available, the bid alternates include the completion of the remaining improvements to the administration and kennel buildings.”
A mandatory Pre-Bid Meeting for prospective bidders is scheduled to be conducted on January
30, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. at the Devore Animal Shelter located at 19777 Shelter Way in Devore.
The bid opening is scheduled for February 19, 2014 at 1:00 p.m. at  the architecture and engineering headquarters.
Plans and specifications are on file with the clerk of the board of supervisors.

Feds Will Not Prosecute Colonies Defendants, Though Fruits Of Their Search Fall To DA

(January 13)  Federal prosecutors will not pursue a criminal case against any of the defendants involved in the Colonies Lawsuit Settlement Public Corruption Prosecution that is proceeding in state court, according to a motion filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in U.S. District Court on January 13.
While Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Widman said in the motion that the federal government’s investigative and prosecutorial action with regard to defendants Jeff Burum, Jim Erwin, Paul Biane and Mark Kirk has concluded, he intimated that materials both relevant and irrelevant to the case that were seized during an FBI search of Burum’s home and office in September 2011 have been turned over to the district attorney’s office and remain in that agency’s possession despite a court order calling for privileged materials to be destroyed or returned to the defendants.
In February 2010, the California Attorney General’s Office and the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office filed conspiracy, extortion bribery and related charges against former San Bernardino County First District Supervisor Bill Postmus and former San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies union president Jim Erwin, claiming the November 2006 vote of the board of supervisors to confer on the Colonies Partners a $102 million payment to settle a lawsuit that company had brought in 2002 against the county over flood control issues at the Colonies at San Antonio residential  and Colonies Crossroads commercial subdivisions in northeast Upland was tainted by coercion, threats and bribery. Both Postmus and Erwin pleaded not guilty to those charges but in March Postmus pleaded guilty to all 14 charges in the indictment against him and another unrelated drug possession charge. In May 2011, after another grand jury was impaneled and Postmus appeared before it as the star witness, a superseding indictment was handed down renaming Erwin and naming Burum, Biane and Kirk.
Four months later, on September 15, 2011, after the federal government’s interest in the matter had been hinted at for more than a year, that interest was confirmed when the FBI served nine search warrants issued by United States Magistrate Judge Oswald Parada at various locations, including the premises of the four defendants.  Burum, whose office and home were searched, resulting in the removal of several of his computers and communications devices, on September 20 and October 3, 2011 filed motions with Parada seeking the return of digital devices which he said were critical to his businesses’ operations. Parada eventually agreed to have the devices and/or data essential to Burum’s business operations returned to him. On November 10, 2011, Parada held a hearing in which he heard arguments that the federal government had exhibited “callous disregard” for Burum’s rights in seizing his property, that the government’s action had irreparably harmed Burum, and that the government should return all of the property it had seized. Parada made a finding that despite misstatements by federal agents that had been previously filed by the court with regard to the matter, the government had not shown the “callous disregard” for Burum’s rights and that the government did not have to return to him the items it had seized from him. Parada did, however. accede to the appointment of a special master to determine which data and materials obtained in the searches was relevant to the case and could be permanently retained by the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office and which materials or data would ultimately need to be returned to Burum or destroyed.
The FBI assigned agents that were not working on the Colonies Partners case to review the materials as part of the special master process.
While Parada’s orders clearly specified that the FBI’s review of the relevancy of the materials seized at the seven locations other than Burum’s home and office had to be carried out first within 60 days and then 120 days after the FBI sought and obtained a 60-day extension, the FBI interpreted the 120-day review deadline as not applying to Burum’s materials that were to be reviewed by a special master.  While Burum’s materials were yet in the custody of the agents carrying out the relevancy review, on May 16, 2012, digitized copies of them and their data  were handed over to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office.
Under the terms of the warrants themselves and Parada’s later orders, government officials were  to return any seized materials or data found to be irrelevant to the case  and “delete or destroy all forensic copies” of irrelevant materials or data.
On September 20, 2013, the district attorney’s office, as part of the discovery process in the state case pending against Burum and his co-defendants, handed over to Burum’s attorney, Stephen Larson, a disk containing forensic copies of materials seized from Burum. On September 27, 2013, Larson referenced the district attorney’s possession of that disk during a court appearance in the pending criminal case. The state court ordered the district attorney’s office to segregate and not review materials seized during the searches of Burum’s residence and office building pending resolution of Larson’s objection to the provision of material that was supposed to have been returned to Burum or otherwise destroyed being provided to the district attorney’s office. Larson then contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office, referenced the district attorney’s Office’s production of the forensic copies that were by federal court order supposed to have been destroyed and asked whether any additional data subject to the special master order had been provided to the district attorney’s office. The U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to look into it. It was subsequently determined that the district attorney’s Office had another disk containing forensic copies of data seized from Burum’s computers and communications devices. One of the district attorney’s office’s investigators claimed to the U.S. Attorney’s Office that the second disk in question had not been reviewed.
On October 9, 2013, Larson met and conferred with the U.S. Attorney’s Office by means of a telephone conference regarding how to resolve the situation and on October 11, Larson followed that up with a letter raising various grievances regarding the government’s investigation and the FBI’s provision of the disks to the district attorney’s office.
On October 17, 2013, the U.S. Attorney’s Office responded to Larson’s letter, saying it intended to ask the district attorney’s office to return the disks and to delete the disk data.
According to Widman, the district attorney’s office has defied that request.
“The government asked the district attorney’s office to return the disks; the district attorney’s office declined to do so,” Widman stated in his January 13 motion. “The district attorney’s office asked the government to refrain from deleting the disk data, since its status had not been ruled upon in the pending criminal case. On November 1, 2013, the government informed movant [i.e., Larson and Burum[ that it intended to abide by the district attorney’s office’s request and not voluntarily destroy the disk data. To date, the district attorney’s office has not returned the disks to the government.”
Widman’s January 13 motion came in response to a petition by Larson to the U.S. District Court in Riverside to have Burum’s property returned to him and the court’s orders regarding the special master to be amended accordingly.
While the revelation with regard to the district attorney’s office’s tenacious hold on the materials in question would suggest that the prosecution in the state case is taking a no-holds-barred approach to proceeding with the matter, Widman’s inclusion of notice that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will not be pursuing a prosecution against the Colonies Lawsuit Settlement Public Corruption Prosecution defendants was roundly hailed by the defendants and their supporters, and interpreted as a sign of weakness in the state’s case.
“The federal statute of limitations on the charges the government was investigating has expired without the filing of federal charges,” Widman stated in the motion.
Larson on Tuesday told the Sentinel “We think this is a big deal.  Both the U.S. Attorney (in paragraph one of the brief) and the FBI (in paragraph seven of Special Agent Jonathan Zeitlin’s declaration) publicly acknowledge for the first time that the federal investigation, which involved search warrants, federal grand jury testimony, interviews, extensive subpoenas and financial analysis, etc., is concluded with no charges being filed.”

County Postpones Ban On Wood Shake Roofs In Fire Zones Until 2016

(January 14)  The county board of supervisors this week postponed for two years the deadline for the owners of  homes in high danger fire area of the county to replace their wood shake roofs with fire resistant materials.
In October 2008, the county board of supervisors adopted an ordinance altering the San Bernardino County Code, requiring the replacement, by July 1, 2014, of wood shake shingle roofs on structures within what the county defined as its Fire Safety Overlay area, that is, a portion of the county wherein the fire danger is particularly high. This includes most of the county within the San Bernardino Mountains and the Angeles National Forest.
Upon adoption of the ordinance, the board directed staff to research grant opportunities that would assist  property owners in offsetting roof replacement costs. On January 24, 2012, the board approved acceptance of a grant award from the California Emergency Management Agency in the amount of $233,983 under the Federal Emergency Management Agency 2008 Legislative Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program. Those funds were designated for the planning phase of a planned undertaking to identify structures eligible for assistance under the Federal Emergency Management Agency program.  At that time, the effort   called for completion of the construction phase of the program, under which eligible property owners receive funds for roof replacement, by July 1, 2014. The compliance deadline in the county’s ordinance was established on that basis.
Funding for the construction phase of the program grant was approved by the state on July 25, 2013 and accepted by the board on August 20, 2013. Because of a delay in the distribution of the construction phase funds, the grant now has a completion deadline of June 27, 2016.
According to San Bernardino County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig,  “In light of this change, staff recommends that the county code be amended to establish July 1, 2016 as the date for compliance with the wood shake shingle roof replacement requirement. This will ensure affected property owners ample time to take advantage of the opportunity for assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 2008 Legislative Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program to offset the cost of roof replacement prior to the county’s enforcement of this new legal requirement.”
Hartwig added, “The proposed amendment will also allow historic structures, defined as those registered in the California Register of Historical Resources or other state or federal government register, to be exempted from the roof replacement requirement. This exemption will help preserve the historic integrity of communities affected.”

McKeon, Sandoval Announce Their Separate Retirements From Office This Week

(January 16)  Two San Bernardino County politicians announced their departures from office within 36 hours of one another this week.
Congressman “Buck” McKeon, who represents California 25th Congressional District, announced he would not seek reelection this year. In making his announcement, he stepped down as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
Grand Terrace City Councilman Bernardo Sandoval, a key member of Grand Terrace Mayor Walt Stanckiewitz’s ruling coalition on the council for two years, announced his resignation this week, effective immediately.
Howard McKeon, a Republican who has been in Congress for 21 years, on Thursday confirmed earlier reports that he would retire after having accomplished two goals, both related to the nation’s military, namely protecting funding for operations and weapons system acquisition and making the military a more hospitable place for women.  In his announcement, he mentioned that he has a granddaughter in the Army.
Born in 1938 in Los Angeles, McKeon grew up in Tujunga and later attended and graduated from Brigham Young University.
McKeon became involved in politics in his late 30s while living in what was then the unincorporated community of Santa Clarita. He successfully ran for the William S. Hart Union High School District Board of Trustees in 1978, serving on that panel until 1987. During his tenure on the school board, he supported the Santa Clarita incorporation effort and was subsequently elected to the city council and then named by his council colleagues as Santa Clarita’s first mayor.
In local elected office, he was a strong supporter of law enforcement.
He was elected to Congress in 1992, representing a distract that was home to a number of defense contractors, including Lockheed’s famed Skunk Works, where many leading edge military aircraft were designed and developed. As such, McKeon became a strong supporter of the military.
At the age of 75, he is leaving after 11 terms in the House of Representatives. The 25th District includes a portion of San Bernardino County’s Mojave Desert.
Sandoval’s resignation comes on the heels of the exodus of Grand Terrace City Manager Betsy Adams, whose leaving was prompted by voters’ rejection of  Measure C in November, which was intended to impose on residents and businesses a utility tax calculated to raise $1.5 million a year in the city of 12,400.
Dwindling revenues had forced considerable cutbacks in municipal operations in Grand Terrace, the county’s smallest city geographically and third smallest in terms of population.
It was not the challenges facing the city but professional opportunity that drove his decision to resign, Sandoval said. A computer systems manager for Beaver Medical Clinic in Highland, he was recently offered a position as the executive director of information technology for United Health Group. He did not feel he could continue to give the attention to his duties as councilman the residents of Grand Terrace deserve while functioning in the more demanding role with United Health.
The four remaining members of the Grand Terrace City Council will discuss at their January 28 meeting what means they will employ – appointment or special election – in replacing Sandoval.

Eaton & Ramos Selected To Lead County’s Rail & Transit Committee

(January 16)  Yesterday, Thursday January 16, Montclair Mayor Paul Eaton and San Bernardino County Supervisor James Ramos were unanimously voted to serve as chairman and vice chairman, respectively,  of the SANBAG Commuter Rail and Transit Committee during its monthly meeting.
San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG) is the council of governments and transportation planning agency for the county. The Commuter Rail and Transit Committee provides guidance and policy recommendations regarding commuter rail and transit services throughout San Bernardino County to the SANBAG board of directors.
The 29-member  SANBAG board of directors consists of a representative of each of the county’s 24 incorporated cities, in most cases each city’s mayor, as well as all five members of the board of suervisors.
Ramos said he is honored to have been chosen for the position. “I’d like to thank my fellow committee members for the honor of serving as their vice chair. I look forward to working with chairman Paul Eaton and the committee on moving the county forward by providing alternative modes of transportation, making our roads safer and easing highway congestion.” stated Ramos.

Board Of Supervisors Rescinds Schendel’s Barstow Heights Appointment

(January 16)  The county board of supervisors this week rescinded its November appointment of Daryl Schendel as a full term director of the  Barstow Heights Community Services District after it was realized Schendel already held a position on that board.
On August 27, 2013 a consolidated mail ballot election had been scheduled in the district but  no one filed a declaration of candidacy for the office.
On November 19, 2013, the board of supervisors adopted a resolution appointing candidates in lieu of election to fill contest vacancies for various special districts in the August 27, 2013 Consolidated Mail Ballot Election in which no candidates ran for the offices. The board of supervisors has the authority to do this under California’s election code.
Among those appointments was that of Schendel, to a full term on the Barstow Heights Community Services District board and Jeanette Hayhurst to a short term on the same board.
According to San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Michael Scarpello, “The recommendation by the district to appoint Daryl Schendel to the vacant office of director-full term was invalid because Mr. Schendel was already appointed to a four-year term that expires in 2015. Since Mr. Schendel already holds a seat in office, he is not eligible to be appointed to the office of director-full term for the August 27, 2013 Consolidated Mail Ballot Election. Therefore, it is recommended that his appointment be rescinded, leaving the seat vacant for further appointment.”
Scarpello continued, “Additionally, the information provided in the certified notification on April 19, 2013, regarding the short term seat was inaccurate because the short term seat was not scheduled to go up for election. Since the seat was not vacant, it is recommended that the appointment of Ms. Hayhurst to the office of Director-Short Term be rescinded.”
Scarpello faced down the dilemma, ending it on a chiming note by concluding, “As a result of the requested rescissions, it is recommended that the resolution be adopted appointing Jeanette Hayhurst to the director-full term seat.”
Thus vacancies on the board were redressed. The board of supervisors ratified Scarpello’s recommendation.


With Postmus’ Credibility Shot, DA Banks On Brown As Lead Witness

(January 8)  Matt Brown, San Bernardino County’s current assistant auditor-controller-treasurer and the one-time chief-of-staff to former county supervisor Paul Biane, is about to emerge front and center  as the lead prosecution witness in the Colonies Lawsuit Settlement Public Corruption Prosecution, the Sentinel has learned.
Prosecutors are hopeful Brown can serve to propound information they believe is damaging to the defendants, lay out a context of events crucial to the understanding of what occurred and that he can offset the setback they have been dealt by the dissipation and seeming self-destruction of Bill Postmus, who was the star witness before the grand jury that indicted the accused. But Brown presents some major credibility challenges of his own that will need to be overcome if the case is to go the way prosecutors want.
That ongoing criminal case alleges Rancho Cucamonga-based developer Jeff Burum extorted and bribed former county supervisors Bill Postmus and Paul Biane in a scheme to get them to vote to approve the settlement of litigation brought by the Colonies Partners against the county over flood control issues at the Colonies at San Antonio residential and Colonies Crossroads commercial projects in northeast Upland. Burum was, with Dan Richards, one of the two managing principals of the Colonies Partners. The county conferred upon the Colonies Partners a $102 million payment in November 2006 to end that lawsuit. A February 2010 indictment charged Postmus with receiving a $100,000 bribe, paid in two $50,000 installments in the form of checks to political action committees he controlled. The 2010 indictment also charged former San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies union president Jim Erwin, who worked as a consultant to the Colonies Partners during their efforts to have the lawsuit settled and was later hired by Postmus to serve as assistant assessor, with having participated with Burum in an extortion scheme targeting Postmus and Biane that preceded the November 2006 vote. Identified in that indictment as unnamed and unindicted coconspirators were Burum, Richards, Biane, public relations professional Patrick O’Reilly and Mark Kirk, the chief-of-staff to supervisor Gary Ovitt. Ovitt had joined with Postmus and Biane in voting to approve the $102 million settlement, which was opposed by supervisor Josie Gonzales and then-supervisor Dennis Hansberger.
Both Postmus and Erwin, who were charged  variously with a host of crimes including conspiracy, extortion, soliciting bribes, accepting bribes, perjury, filing falsified documents and other violations of the public trust, pleaded not guilty to those charges. But in March 2011, Postmus pleaded guilty to all fourteen counts contained in the indictment against him along with one other unrelated drug possession count and agreed to turn state’s evidence. He was the star witness before a newly-impaneled grand jury that heard evidence and testimony from a total of 45 witnesses in April 2011. In May 2011, that grand jury handed down a superseding 29-count indictment that collectively charged Erwin, Burum, Biane and Kirk with conspiracy relating to the alleged bribery scheme. Erwin was hammered with multiple counts, including receiving a bribe, acting as Burum’s agent, perjury, filing falsified documents and tax evasion. Biane was charged with soliciting and receiving a bribe in exchange for his vote. Kirk was charged with receiving a bribe in exchange for influencing his boss, Ovitt, to vote to approve the settlement. Burum was not charged with bribery. Rather, prosecutors fashioned charges against him that alleged aiding and abetting Postmus, Biane and Kirk in receiving bribes. The defendants were also charged with conflict-of-interest and misappropriating public funds. No substantive counts of extortion were charged in the superseding indictment and the extortion counts against Erwin in the February 2010 indictment were dispensed with, although extortion implications were wrapped into the broad conspiracy count contained in the May 2011 indictment.
Defense attorneys filed demurrers on behalf of their clients, motions which called into question the legal sufficiency of the charges against the defendants. A central theme in those demurrers was the inability of prosecutors to charge a defendant with conspiracy or aiding and abetting a crime when that individual stands accused of a crime that necessarily involves the involvement of another individual. San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Brian McCarville granted many of those demurrers, severely weakening the case, which involved a rare cooperative prosecution by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and the California Attorney General’s Office. When prosecutors  appealed McCarville’s ruling to the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Riverside, that panel upheld McCarville on most issues of substance. The prosecution then appealed to the California Supreme Court, which essentially overruled the lower courts and reinstated the gist of the case.
The case has been handed back to the Fourth District Court of Appeals, with instructions for any outstanding issues remaining from the demurrer stage to be resolved so the matter can move to trial.
Thus, it now appears likely Burum will be headed to trial on charges of conspiracy, the aiding and abetting of bribery, and misappropriation of funds, Erwin will face charges of conspiracy, aiding and abetting Biane in his reception of a bribe, accepting a bribe, income reporting violations, tax violations and perjury, Biane will need to contest conspiracy and acceptance of a bribe charges and Kirk will be obliged to fend off charges that he received a bribe in the form of a $100,000 donation from Burum to his political action committee in exchange for influencing his boss, Ovitt, to vote to approve the settlement and that he misappropriated $20,000 from that political action committee for his own use.
The prosecution is yet faced with the burden of proving its case to a jury. In that way, relying upon Postmus to reprise his role before the 2011 Grand Jury as the central witness promises to be a risky proposition. In November 2006, just three weeks prior to the Colonies lawsuit settlement vote, Postmus beat incumbent county assessor Don Williamson after utilizing more than $3 million to conduct his countywide campaign for that office.  He resigned as First District supervisor in January 2007 to move into the assessor’s post. Over the next two years, Postmus personally and politically self-destructed as he sank further and ever deeper into the grip of substance abuse, specifically the use of methamphetamine, ecstasy and inhalants. As early as 2006 – in the midst of his campaign for assessor and while he was yet chairman of the board of supervisors –  Postmus had made an unexplained disappearance. That absence was taken  so he could undergo drug rehabilitation treatment, a secret kept under wraps not only by those in his own circle but by then-county administrative officer Mark Uffer and other high ranking county officials. After he became assessor, Postmus, who had no prior real estate appraising experience, was notoriously absent from the assessor’s office. Freed of the discipline of having to make appearances at board of supervisors meetings two or three times a month, Postmus’ drug addiction intensified, despite at least two interventions efforts. In 2008, while Postmus was undergoing treatment, his absence from the assessor’s office became a public issue. A cover story was concocted in which it was acknowledged he was seeking assistance with a substance addiction, but it was falsely claimed he was suffering from a reliance on painkillers brought about by a back injury. In January 2009, after the district attorney’s office began focusing on the potential criminal implication in the partisan application of the authority of the assessor’s office, search warrants were obtained for Postmus’ office and home. When those search warrants were served in January 2009, drugs and drug paraphernalia were discovered at Postmus’ Rancho Cucamonga townhome.  A firestorm of controversy ensued and the following month, Postmus resigned as assessor.
Postmus’ indictment on the bribery charges came a year his resignation from office. Throughout that time, he struggled with his addiction. After his indictment, whatever money he had accumulated during his public career was devoured by living expenses and lawyers fees. At some point in late 2010, even as his attorney, Stephen Levine, maintained the outward fiction of putting on a legal defense in the face of the indictment, Postmus began cooperating with prosecutors.  With the world already closed in upon him and after seeming to have hit rock bottom, a series of events plummeted the man who had once stood at the highest pinnacle of San Bernardino County politics even further downward. During one of Postmus’ appearances in court, officials who suspected he was under the influence of methamphetamine confronted him, subjected him to a drug test and then seized and searched his vehicle, turning up drug residue and paraphernalia, confirming their suspicions. In March 2011, Postmus threw in the towel, pleading to the entirety of the charges pending against him. He then went before the newly impaneled grand jury and provided testimony that was used to support the reindictment of Erwin and the indictments of Biane, Kirk and Burum.
Postmus’ credibility and anticipated role as the lead witness in the prosecution of the four defendants came under question when in October 2011  Postmus voluntarily and with his lawyer’s consent submitted to questioning by FBI Agent Jonathan Zeitlin and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jerry Behnke and Joseph Widman. The exchange with the former supervisor was part of an exploratory move by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to determine if there might be grounds for the filing of federal charges against the defendants in the state Colonies Settlement Public Corruption Prosecution. Postmus made statements that in some measure contradicted earlier statements he had made, including ones before the grand jury. He also acknowledged that he continued to use methamphetamine, including having ingested the drug  a “couple dozen times” in 2011, during the same time he had been before the grand jury.
The attorneys representing Burum, Biane, Erwin and Kirk made clear that Postmus’ drug use would become a major point of contention with regard to the credibility of his testimony. That point has been rammed home by a consistent stream of internet postings on various media blogs wherein supporters of the defendants and critics of the district attorney’s office and state attorney general’s office have criticized the prosecution for its reliance on Postmus – now a convicted felon and confirmed drug addict – in making its case.
Thus, the prosecution is now in the process of reassessing how it will proceed. Prosecutors believe they can minimize the role Postmus will play in offering prosecution testimony and instead rely on public campaign disclosure documents which reveal Burum’s provision of money to the three others indicted with him, as well as the testimony of two other figures involved in the matter – public relations consultant Patrick O’Reilly and Brown.
Prosecutors intend to call O’Reilly as a witness and elicit from him testimony that in 2006, three months before the election and the settlement which followed 21 days later, he had prepared mailers based upon information that had been provided to him by Burum or  Burum’s hired private investigators. Those mailers revealed that Biane was personally insolvent and teetering at the brink of bankruptcy and that Postmust was a homosexual who was hopelessly in the grip of drug addiction even as he was perched at the pinnacle of county government as the chairman of the board of supervisors and heading the county GOP as the chairman of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee.
While that electioneering material was prepared and ready for dissemination, none of it was actually mailed to voters. In this way, prosecutors believe, they can establish for a jury that Burum, with the assistance of Erwin, who they allege acted as a go-between in his role as a consultant to the Colonies Partners, had blackmailed, i.e., extorted, both Postmus and Biane by threatening to publicly reveal information that would have been damaging to them politically.
Key to the bribery element of the case is $400,000 in donations Burum and/or his company, the Colonies Partners, made to political action committees controlled by the other three defendants and Postmus over the seven month period following the settlement.
On March 20, 2007, Burum made out a check for $100,000 to what prosecutors say was the then-nonexistent Committee for Effective Government PAC. Prosecutors say Erwin then created the Committee for Effective Government PAC on March 23, 2007, establishing himself as chairman, Clyde Boyd-vice-chairman, Elizabeth Sanchez-secretary, Betty Presley-treasurer, Gloria Affatati-Boyd-director, and Steven Hauer-director. On March 28, 2007, Erwin deposited the $100,000 check into the Committee for Effective Government PAC’s bank account.
On May 16, 2007, Burum wrote a check for $100,000 from the Colonies Partners to the then-nonexistent Alliance for Ethical Government PAC. On May 25, 2007, Kirk, according to prosecutors, directed his campaign accountant to complete the establishment of the Alliance for Ethical Government PAC. On May 29, 2007, Kirk deposited the $100,000 check into the Alliance for Ethical Government’s bank account.
On June 15, 2007, Burum and the co-managing principal with the Colonies Partners, Dan Richards, signed a check for $100,000 from Colonies Partners to the San Bernardino County Young Republicans PAC, which prosecutors maintain was secretly controlled by Biane. .
On June 29, 2007, Burum signed a check for $50,000 from the Colonies Partners to the Inland Empire PAC, which publicly listed Dino DeFazio as chairman, Mike Gallagher as vice-chair, Jeff Bentow as community outreach director, and Mike Richman as executive director, but which prosecutors say was secretly controlled by Postmus. On June 29, 2007, Burum signed a check for $50,000 from the Colonies Partners to the Republicans for a Conservative Majority PAC, which listed Mike Richman as the sole member of the board of directors and executive director but which was, prosecutors maintain, secretly controlled by Postmus.
Prosecutors allege the provision of these political donations to the various PACs was an elaborate ruse to launder bribes.
The model upon which the other involved PACs  were designed, prosecutors allege, was the San Bernardino County Young Republicans PAC, which prosecutors allege was controlled by Biane, but which was actually set up by Brown, his chief-of-staff. Brown founded at least four political action committees used to vector money to various political candidates and campaigns.
The Sentinel has learned that after district attorney’s office had begun looking into the Colonies lawsuit settlement in earnest, in the spring of 2009 district attorney’s investigators Hollis Randles, Schyler Beaty and Robert Schreiber confronted both Kirk and Brown, aggressively questioning them with regard to action they had taken on behalf of Ovitt and Biane, suggesting the PACS they had set up had been used to launder kickbacks.
Kirk initially responded to some of the questions but became increasingly reluctant to continue, and resisted efforts to wring from him statements implicating Ovitt. He insisted that the interrogation be brought to a close and refused to make any further statements outside the presence of an attorney.
When the investigators isolated Brown, they subjected him to accusations that he had acted illegally on Biane’s behalf  as well as in tandem with him in a criminal conspiracy. Panicked, Brown acceded to cooperating with the district attorney’s office.
Of immediate interest to Schreiber, Beatty and Hollis was the San Bernardino County Young Republicans PAC, which Brown founded in 2006 with Biane’s blessing to assist Biane and other members of Biane’s political circle in distributing money to politicians they supported. Campaign finance records show that the San Bernardino County Young Republicans PAC became a political force to be reckoned with after the $100,000 check from Colonies Partners was deposited into its account in June 2007. The indictments allege that the series of $100,000 donations to the political action committees founded and controlled by Postmus, Brown, Kirk and Erwin were in fact quid pro quos — bribes — paid in exchange for the approval of the settlement. Prosecutors allege that Biane, through Brown, secretly controlled the San Bernardino County Young Republicans PAC.
Indeed, political action committees Brown and Biane were involved with raised numerous questions, and not just with district attorney’s office investigators. The Sentinel is informed that a complaint was filed more than two years ago with the state Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) citing a PAC founded by Brown in 2008, the San Bernardino County Taxpayers Association, which is separate from the San Bernardino County Young Republicans PAC alluded to in the indictments. According to well placed sources, both the San Bernardino County Taxpayers Association and the San Bernardino County Young Republicans PAC were under scrutiny in that investigation.
On March 17, 2008, Brown formed the San Bernardino County Taxpayers Association PAC and named J.M. Olchawa as the PAC’s treasurer. Both Brown and Olchawa are residents of Grand Terrace. Olchawa endowed the PAC with its first operating capital in the form of a $100 contribution.  Less than a month later, on April 9, 2008, the San Bernardino County Young Republicans PAC contributed $40,000, which had apparently originated with the $100,000 contribution from the Colonies Partners the previous year, to the San Bernardino County Taxpayers Association PAC. The following month, on May 29, 2008, one of the political action committees controlled by Postmus, the Inland Empire PAC, infused the San Bernardino County Taxpayers PAC with $3,000 and the month after that, on June 2, 2008, with another $2,000. That $5,000, too, had apparently been originally provided by the Colonies Partners.
Based upon investigators’ exchanges with Brown, prosecutors with both the  California Attorney General’s Office and the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office had grounds to allege the PAC had been used as a vehicle to launder bribes and kickbacks to Biane.
In the less than two month period between the $40,000 contribution from Brown’s own Young Republicans PAC on April 9, 2008 and Postmus’ Inland Empire PAC’s $2,000 donation on June 2, 2008, the San Bernardino County Taxpayers Association PAC received a substantial amount of money in the form of both contributions and loans, all from other political figures. On April 25, 2008, the Committee to Elect Paul Biane gave the San Bernardino County Taxpayers Association PAC a $15,000 contribution. On April 29, 2008 the Committee to Elect Dick Larsen provided the San Bernardino County Taxpayers Association PAC with a $10,000 loan. Larsen was then the county treasurer. On May 5, 2008 the Committee to Elect Gary C. Ovitt made a $15,000 contribution to Brown’s San Bernardino County Taxpayers Association PAC. That money may have originated with the Colonies Partners before being provided to Kirk’s Alliance For Ethical Government PAC and then being provided to Ovitt. On May 9, 2008, the Josie Gonzales for Supervisor campaign provided a $15,000 contribution to the San Bernardino County Taxpayers PAC. On May 16, 2008, Bill Emmerson for Assembly 2008 made a $5,000 contribution to Brown’s recently formed PAC. The same day, the San Bernardino Public Employees Association PAC provided Brown’s PAC with a $10,000 contribution. On May 23, 2008, the Committee to Elect Gary C. Ovitt provided Brown’s PAC with a $10,000 loan. On May 27, 2008, the Hansberger for Supervisor Committee made a $25,000 contribution to the San Bernardino County Taxpayers Association PAC. The next day, May 28, the Paul Cook for Assembly 2008 Committee provided Brown’s PAC with a $5,000 loan. The same day, the Committee to Elect Paul Biane made a $10,000 loan to Brown’s PAC. On May 29, Bill Emmerson for Assembly 2008 made a $5,000 contribution to the PAC and on June 2, 2008, the Hansberger for Supervisor Committee made a $15,000 contribution to the San Bernardino County Taxpayers Association PAC.
The lion’s share of the money Brown’s PAC took in was used to fund Hansberger’s effort to be reelected as county Third District supervisor that year. According to campaign disclosure documents, the San Bernardino County Taxpayers Association PAC on May 18 provided the Hansberger for Supervisor Committee with $57,030.70 and on June 30, 2008, more than three weeks after Hansberger had lost the election to Neil Derry on June 3, Brown’s PAC gave the Hansberger for Supervisor Committee $100,920.29.
The Fair Political Practices Commission interested itself in the lack of any subsequent accounting for the $35, 000.00 in loans made to the San Bernardino County Taxpayers Association PAC by the Larsen, Ovitt, Cook and Biane campaign committees. All references to those loans disappeared from subsequent campaign filing statements made on behalf of the PAC by Olchawa. The loans in question appear to be outstanding. No explicit reference to repayments to any of the lending parties can be found in any of the San Bernardino County Taxpayers Association PAC’s financial disclosure statements. While the online filing made by the Committee to Elect Gary Ovitt shows an outstanding loan of $10,000 to the San Bernardino County Taxpayers Association PAC as of 12/31/2010, online filings for the other lending parties have never been made available. There is no indication in any available documentation showing any of the loans were repaid.
No FPPC action was ever taken against the San Bernardino County Taxpayers Association PAC or Brown.
Despite the questions relating to the monetary transfers his PACs have been involved in and other outstanding issues, prosecutors are yet convinced that Brown can be effectively used as a witness in the prosecutions of Burum, Biane, Kirk and Erwin.
After Brown was approached by investigators in the Spring of 2009 and he agreed to become an informant for the district attorney’s office, he surreptitiously provided  information and material to prosecutors intended to put his boss – Biane – in prison.  That cooperation with prosecutors included Brown wearing a wire – a hidden audio recording device – while he was at work in Biane’s supervisorial office in an attempt to capture utterances by Biane that would implicate him in bribe taking.
About a year before the superseding indictment was handed down, the district attorney’s office, assisted by the county’s senior administrators, went to extraordinary lengths to protect Brown and separate him from Biane.  With much fanfare, Brown, who at that point in 2010 was still Biane’s chief of staff, filed a claim against the county, alleging Biane was retaliating against him. In the claim, Brown disclosed that he had been cooperating in the district attorney’s office’s investigation of Biane.
Biane, who had been the best man at Brown’s wedding and still considered Brown a trusted and close friend, was completely and utterly taken aback by the claim. He had no inkling, he said, that his chief of staff was working as an informant against him. More to the point, Biane was that year standing for reelection. The publicity about the matter redounded to his political disadvantage and after placing second in the June primary, he ultimately lost to his most successful challenger, Fontana councilwoman Janice Rutherford.
Before the 2010 election, at the apparent direction of county executive officer Greg Devereaux,  county auditor-controller-recorder Larry Walker brought Brown into his office as his second-in-command, making him assistant county auditor-controller, despite his lack of experience or expertise with regard to the duties of the office.
Brown remains as Walker’s top assistant following a reorganization in which Walker handed responsibility for the recorder’s function over to the assessor’s office and took on the added assignment of treasurer and tax collector. Brown retains the status, stature and credibility of being an assistant county department head. From that position he is thus likely to be called as a witness when the Colonies Lawsuit Settlement Public Corruption Prosecution goes to trial. In such a role, he will be counted upon to blast a hole below Biane’s water line, testifying that at the former supervisor’s direction he had used the San Bernardino County Young Republicans PAC to launder the bribe Biane had received from Burum in exchange for his vote to approve the $102 million lawsuit settlement.
Nevertheless, whatever story Brown is to tell is likely to raise as many questions as it will answer. Prosecutors can be selective in their questions to him, allowing him to put his best foot forward, claiming he was somehow innocently caught up in the corrupt political machinations of his one-time boss and best friend and closest political associate. Defense attorneys, however, will not likely allow it to escape jurors’ attention that had the same standard of conduct that was applied to Kirk been applied to him, he would have been indicted as well. And defense attorneys will probably also ask withering questions about the transferences of money into and out of the other PACs he founded or controlled, making it difficult for him to sell the idea that he had been a naïf manipulated by Biane in his operation of the San Bernardino County Young Republicans.
How well Brown holds up under that cross-examination could impact the outcome of the trial and whether the defendants will be convicted or exonerated.