Supervisor Paul Biane

Was there a deal cut to protect San Bernardino County’s beleaguered district attorney Mike Ramos?

Certainly looks like it.

Multiple sources confirm to InlandPolitics that the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors cut a deal, where Ramos’ investigation of alleged political malfeasance in county government would be punted off to be handled as an administrative matters by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) in Sacramento.

In return, the district attorney’s office would not file charges against county supervisor Paul Biane, other staff, and new incoming County Administrative Officer (CAO) Greg Devereaux, for failing to properly disclose gifts received on statements of economic interest, receipt of gifts over the limit, misuse of campaign funds, perjury, and filing false documents.

The “referral” was made to the FPPC just one week prior to county supervisors releasing the findings of an investigation into Ramos’ conduct.

It is believed that other less serious matters involving other individuals were also handed off to the state as well.

The travel in question was discovered by investigators from the District Attorney’s office after flight records were seized by investigators. Once the cat was out of the bag the affected officials started scurrying to disclose.

Biane and incoming CAO Greg Devereaux participated in a cross-country junket to play golf and socialize with local businessmen. The trip to West Virginia in September 2008 occurred via private jet.

Official records filed with the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters and available on-line show that for the period in question, Biane has amended his FPPC Form 460 Campaign Finance Statement three times in an attempt to show the trip as campaign related activity, when rules enforced by the FPPC clearly ban payment from campaign funds for leisure activities unrelated to campaign activity. Biane listed expenses related to the travel as a golf outing with donors.

Unfortunately for Biane, the donors were from California not West Virginia.

Biane never reimbursed the full amount for the travel, which is estimated at over $10,000. Biane’s disclosure indicates he reimbursed $300 for the charter and a few hundred dollars more for incidental expenses and golf.

Since the trip would not qualify as campaign-related activity, the entire excursion would be classified as a gift, and all of the associated cost over the annual gift limit would have to be personally reimbursed by Biane. No personal reimbursement occurred.

The gift rule application would also require the trip to be listed on Biane’s FPPC Form 700 Statement of Economic Interest. It was not.

A review of Biane’s Form 700 available on-line at the San Bernardino County Clerk of the Board of Supervisors website makes no mention of a trip in September 2008.

All of Biane’s disclosure statements were signed under penalty of perjury.

Greg Devereaux

Devereaux, at the time was the City Manger for Ontario. Not being an elected officeholder, Devereaux had no campaign slush fund to exploit.

Devereaux did attempt to reimburse at the common-carrier equivalent rule. However, that rule was changed on August 15, 2008 to require actual cost reimbursement.

Devereaux is relying on the “bad advice” from the city attorney defense.

Other private jet trips involving Board Chairman Gary Ovitt, his Chief of Staff Mark Kirk, and Biane have also been under scrutiny.

The perspective case against Biane and others would resemble a nearly identical matter regarding former county employee Jim Erwin.

Ramos brought criminal charges against Jim Erwin, a longtime former street deputy sheriff who accepted a position on staff with an elected official, for similar alleged offenses.

Considering that Jim Erwin’s matter is being handled as a criminal matter, and other officials’ conduct is being handled by an administrative body, rather than a prosecutorial entity, the question therefore is: Why the double standard?

District Attorney Mike Ramos needs to come clean and clearly state exactly why he referred county supervisors’ ethical shortcomings to state administrators, rather than bring criminal sanctions against them, as he is doing in the case against Jim Erwin and Bill Postmus.