Former assessor to cooperate in corruption probe

SAN BERNARDINO – Former San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus, who pleaded guilty Monday to corruption charges, has agreed to be a witness in the district attorney’s continuing probe.

At the center of the probe is an investigation into a $102 million payout by the county to Colonies Partners, a Rancho Cucamonga-based development company that settled a lawsuit with San Bernardino County.

Postmus and former assistant assessor Jim Erwin were charged in 2010 for conspiracy in that settlement with Colonies Partners. Postmus also faced a methamphetamine possession charge for which he pled guilty.

Postmus, under an agreement reached Thursday, is expected to testify on issues of bribery and conflict of interest in the Colonies case, and regarding misappropriation of public funds from the county assessor’s office.

The district attorney’s office reached an agreement with Postmus regarding truthful testimony; charges would be reduced to three counts if a judge and the DA agrees that he fulfilled the terms of his plea agreement.

“There was no agreement on sentence,” read a statement from the DA’s office. “(Postmus) would face a maximum of five years in State Prison for the three charges.”

Earlier in the probe, former Rancho Cucamonga City Councilman Rex Gutierrez was found guilty of corruption charges, having been sentenced to two years and eight months in prison.

San Bernardino County sued Postmus over the $102 million settlement, along with the five other corruption defendants. In an attempt to recoup county taxpayer dollars, San Bernardino officials also went after the city of Upland and Caltrans for part of the settlement, since both were part of the easement.

Originally, developer Colonies sued the county in 2002 for $23 million over a flood control basin on its Upland land, claiming the city of Upland was holding the developer up on the easement and inflating land prices. What ensued, according to various accounts, was constant harassment by the developer, a five-year battle over the easement and Colonies’ ultimate demand of $300 million over the development mess.

When the $102 million settlement came before the county, Supervisor Dennis Hansberger voted against it. It was Hansberger who was among those who suggested that Ovitt, Biane and Postmus, who voted in favor of the settlement, were swayed by Colonies’ political and monetary influence.

The case includes five uncharged co-conspirators, including Jeff Burum and Dan Richards, co-managers at Colonies Parnters; former county Supervisor Paul Biane, who voted for the settlement; Mark Kirk, former chief of staff to Supervisor Gary Ovitt; and Colonies media consultant Patrick O’Reilly.

None have been charged and all have denied wrongdoing, according to the district attorney.

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