James Rufus Koren and Joe Nelson, Staff Writers
Posted: 01/19/2010 09:38:48 PM PST

More than a year before he was hired as San Bernardino County’s top administrator, Greg Devereaux traveled cross-country on a private jet for a weekend of college football and camaraderie with county Supervisor Paul Biane and two investors from Rancho Cucamonga development company Colonies Partners.

Biane says he used the September 2008 trip as an opportunity to query Devereaux – the longtime Ontario city manager – about whether he’d be interested in becoming the county’s chief administrative officer.

“It was a chance to get together to discuss county business with Greg Devereaux and to spend time with political donors of mine and to continue to cultivate that relationship with my donors,” Biane said Tuesday. “It was an opportunity that I would have to talk to Greg about issues that affected the county and the city of Ontario, as well as his interest in being the CAO of the county.”

San Bernardino County prosecutors asked the state Fair Political Practices Commission on Jan. 11 to look into whether Devereaux and Biane properly reported the trip on campaign finance and gift disclosure forms.

Devereaux, 58, was hired as county CAO on Jan. 12, replacing Mark Uffer, who was fired Nov. 17.

District attorney’s spokeswoman Susan Mickey declined to comment on why the District Attorney’s Office is looking into the trip or whether it factors into the office’s ongoing corruption investigation, which includes scrutiny of a landmark $102 million settlement between the county and Colonies Partners in November 2006.

The nearly four-year legal battle centered on who was responsible for improvements to a flood control channel in Upland where Colonies would ultimately build a sprawling residential and commercial development adjacent to the 210 Freeway.

An FPPC decision on any potential reporting violations from the trip is expected within the next couple weeks.

Devereaux said he didn’t report the trip because it was personal and that he reimbursed the airplane’s owner.

“It was very clear that I was trying to do what was right under the law,” Devereaux said.

Biane said he, too, reimbursed the plane’s owner, whom he identified as Ray Crebs, and reported the trip on his campaign disclosure forms.

During the September 2008 trip, Devereaux, Biane and Colonies investors Crebs and Dan Richards flew aboard Crebs’ private jet to Morgantown, W.Va. – home of West Virginia University.

Neither Crebs nor Richards could be reached for comment.

They stayed at the home of Richards’ father and attended a game between Marshall and WVU, Devereaux’s and Richards’ alma mater.

Devereaux said he consulted with Ontario City Attorney John Brown about compensating the owner of the plane, but he was unaware of an August 2008 change in the travel laws that may have required him to pay more.

Devereaux said he paid the owner of the plane about $600 for the flight and sent the owner’s wife a bottle of champagne valued at more than $600.

Devereaux said that if he’d known about the new law, he would not have gone on the trip as it would have required him to reimburse substantially more.

In the years he has known Crebs, Devereaux said, Crebs has conducted no business in the city of Ontario that would present any conflict of interest.

He also said he did not know that Crebs was an investor in Colonies Partners, though he was aware Richards was.

Biane reimbursed Crebs through a campaign account and said he reported the four-day, three-night excursion as a business trip.

“I always try to make every effort to be open and transparent about my political travels, where I went and why, and I believe my reports reflect that,” Biane said.

Payments to Crebs from Biane’s campaign account were reported on amended campaign finance statements in March. Those payments – for the flight and golf – were not listed on finance reports due in October.

“I think the question that is being raised by the DA is whether the trip was personal and should have been reported as such, or as I reported it, as being political and business related,” Biane said. “So I either reported it correctly or I didn’t report it correctly. We’ll wait for the FPPC to make that determination.”

County Supervisor Neil Derry said the timing of the letter to the FPPC raises questions about the district attorney’s motives.

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