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Former San Bernardino County supervisor indicted on public corruption charges

May 10, 2011 | 11:49 am

Former San Bernardino County supervisor indicted on public corruption charges

Felony warrant poster for Paul Antoine Baine. Click through to enlarge.A  former San Bernardino County supervisor and a partner in a housing development were among four people indicted Tuesday on public corruption charges stemming from the illicit use of public funds associated with a $102-million settlement between the county and the developer.

Former Supervisor Paul Antoine Biane, who remains at large, and Jeff Burum, a managing partner at Colonies Partners of Rancho Cucamonga, were named in the 29-count indictment that includes bribery, embezzlement and conspiracy charges, authorities said. James Erwin, a former assistant assessor, and Mark Kirk, a former chief of staff to Supervisor Gary Ovitt, were also named in the indictment.

“We are not going to tolerate corruption in San Bernardino County,” Dist. Atty. Michael A. Ramos said at a morning news conference. “These individuals have violated the trust of the citizens of San Bernardino County."

Ramos said this was the biggest corruption case he’s ever prosecuted and that it took investigators 2-1/2 years to put together. He said other indictments could be forthcoming.

“We won’t rest until we follow all the evidence to where it leads,” he said.

The announcement comes a month after former San Bernardino County Supervisor Bill Postmus pleaded guilty to corruption charges for his role in the conspiracy and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Postmus, who at one point also faced methamphetamine possession charges, was chairman of the Board of Supervisors when the settlement was reached.

The corruption scandal involves a $102-million settlement between the county and developer Colonies Partners of Rancho Cucamonga in 2006, reached after the developer filed suit in 2002 challenging the county's easement rights over a flood control basin in Upland. The Board of Supervisors approved the settlement 3 to 2 against the advice of county counsel and other attorneys, with Biane voting in favor of the agreement, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors contend that Postmus accepted $100,000 from the developer for his vote in support of the settlement. They say the money was funneled through two political action committees that he secretly controlled.

Postmus then transferred $50,000 from one of the committees into his campaign account, using some of the funds for personal meals and entertainment, prosecutors say.

Earlier in the investigation, prosecutors also alleged that Colonies gave former Assistant County Assessor James Erwin $100,000, which was deposited into a political action committee he allegedly controlled. When Postmus was running for assessor in 2006, prosecutors say, Erwin created political mailers depicting the supervisor as a drug addict and homosexual to blackmail him into accepting the bribe and voting for the settlement.

Postmus became assessor in 2007 but resigned in February 2009 after authorities said they had found methamphetamine in his home. The same drug was allegedly found in Postmus' home when he was taken into custody in January 2009.

The drug charges against Postmus were later dropped as part of his plea agreement.


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-- Phil Willon in San Bernardino

Photo, top: A poster on display at the San Bernardino County D.A.’s office. Credit: Phil Willon / Los Angeles Times

Photo, left: Felony warrant poster for Paul Antoine Biane. Credit: Phil Willon / Los Angeles Times