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Top lawyer for Enron prosecution to investigate Bill Postmus

January 28, 2009 | 12:45 pm

The prosecutor who obtained convictions against Enron's Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling will now target embattled San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus.

The county Board of Supervisors has hired John C. Heuston of the Los Angeles law firm of Irell & Manella to investigate Postmus and determine whether there are grounds to throw him out of office, said county spokesman David Wert.

Postmus was arrested Jan. 15 after investigators raided his home and 10 other sites in San Bernardino and Orange counties and found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. He was released on bail and remains on the job. Only a few weeks earlier, Postmus had told supervisors that he had overcome a drug problem.

The assessor is also under investigation for the way he has run his office. A grand jury criticized him, saying he used employees to do campaign work, mismanaged a college-tuition reimbursement program and hired unqualified staff.

The board voted Tuesday to hire Heuston.

"The county is confident that Mr. Heuston will provide the board with the best information possible so that if the board proceeds with removal, [its] case will be solid and its decision will withstand any potential legal challenge," said Gary Ovitt, supervisor chairman.

The county is the only one in the state that allows the board to remove elected officials.

Heuston, a former federal prosecutor with a record of targeting public corruption, also initiated the case against former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona. The Board of Supervisors created a $250,000 fund to pay his firm, though exactly how much the investigation will cost remains unknown.

-- David Kelly