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Offices searched in San Bernardino County public corruption probe [Updated]

September 15, 2011 |  1:41 pm

Former San Bernardino County supervisor indicted on public corruption charges FBI and IRS agents Thursday morning executed nine federal search warrants that appeared to be related to an ongoing public corruption investigation of a Rancho Cucamonga development and its handling by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.

[Updated: 3:40 p.m.: Among the offices searched were those of Jeffrey Burum, a managing partner at Colonies Partners of Rancho Cucamonga, and O'Reilly Public Relations in Riverside. One of the properties is associated with GOP operative and former state Sen. James L. Brulte. ]

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said the identities of the targets of the warrants were under court seal and that the nature of the investigation could not be disclosed.

"We're prohibited from commenting about them,'' Eimiller said.

In May, former San Bernardino County Supervisor Paul Antoine Biane and Burum were named in a 29-count indictment that includes charges of bribery, extortion and misappropriation of public funds.

James Erwin, a former assistant assessor and former chief of staff for Supervisor Neil Derry, and Mark Kirk, a former chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt, were also named in the indictment.

The corruption case involves a $102-million settlement between the county and Colonies Partners in 2006, four years after the developer filed suit challenging the county's easement rights over a flood control basin in the middle of a large retail and housing development in Upland. The Board of Supervisors, acting against the advice of county counsel, voted 3 to 2 to approve the settlement.

In August, a San Bernardino Superior Court judge dismissed five of the seven charges against Burum. Charges of misappropriation of public funds against the other defendants also were dismissed.

[Updated: 5:35 p.m. Jason Kinney, a spokesperson for Jim Brulte, issued the following statement:

"Senator Brulte has cooperated fully and freely with any and all law enforcement entities which have contacted him during the Colonies investigation.

Today, his home and office were searched by federal authorities. It has never been alleged by any authority that Jim had any direct connection to any improper activities, he's never observed any improper activities, and he's already provided complete testimony to two different grand juries. 

He will continue to cooperate fully and voluntarily with all law enforcement inquiries. It's worth noting that Colonies was Jim's client for only four months in 2004 and 2005, well before any of the alleged improper events occurred."]


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-- Phil Willon in Riverside

Photo: A poster displayed at the San Bernardino County district attorney's office earlier this year during a news conference about the corruption investigation. Credit: Phil Willon/Los Angeles Times