Mike Cruz, Staff Writer
Posted: 02/09/2010 04:09:05 PM PST

SAN BERNARDINO – Prosecutors charged a Rancho Cucamonga councilman with two additional felony counts Tuesday morning at a court appearance in San Bernardino in connection with the Assessor’s Office investigation.

Councilman Rex Gutierrez appeared for arraignment in San Bernardino Superior Court on two original counts of grand theft and embezzlement. However, prosecutors have added two additional counts – grand theft and presenting a false claim – which allegedly occurred between 2007 and 2009, court documents state.

Gutierrez, 50, entered a not guilty plea to all four counts during the proceedings. He is set to return to court Feb. 26 for a pretrial hearing, according to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office. A trial is scheduled for March 15.

Judge Duke Rouse recently ordered Gutierrez to stand trial on the charges after listening to testimony at a Jan. 29 preliminary hearing in Superior Court. Rouse ruled that sufficient evidence existed to support the charges against the defendant.

Prosecutors allege that Gutierrez stole from taxpayers when he attended city events for Rancho Cucamonga on county time and then billed the city for mileage and collected pay from the county, according to court testimony.

Deputy District Attorney John Goritz said during the Jan. 29 hearing that evidence showed Gutierrez’s employment at the county Assessor’s Office from March 2007 to January 2009 was “political payback” for voting in favor of development projects for Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum.

Goritz had no comment about the court proceedings when reached later Tuesday at his office. When asked whether Burum would be called to testify at Gutierrez’s upcoming trial, Goritz declined to discuss witnesses.

Prosecutors have not extended to Gutierrez any offers to settle the case.

Defense lawyer James Reiss has countered that his client’s status as an exempt employee allowed him a more flexible schedule to perform job functions outside the office.

The defense also has argued the case should be in civil court, not criminal court, and that Gutierrez was never disciplined while employed at the Assessor’s Office.

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