Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 02/24/2010 09:45:41 PM PST

District Attorney Michael A. Ramos on Wednesday released a slate of proposed governmental reforms he feels are necessary to thwart the legacy of corruption in San Bernardino County.

During a meeting with The Sun’s editorial board, Ramos said cleaning up corruption in the county will be part of his platform in his re-election campaign this year.

“The supervisors in this county have taken it upon themselves to do it all,” Ramos said. “The supervisors have become too powerful in this county.”

In his two-page paper, Ramos claims county government is “woefully imbalanced” and that board members have become “Super supervisors” who exercise broad executive powers in addition to their legislative roles.

He proposes a law that would require a four-fifths vote by the Board of Supervisors to fire the county administrative officer, as well as a reason for the firing, as is stipulated in the county’s contract with its new CAO, Greg Devereaux.

“Until the current CAO’s contract, the CAO could be dismissed at any time for any reason by any three board members,” Ramos said in his paper. “Accordingly, there was always powerful pressure to set aside the public interest when that direction displeased a majority of the board. The CAO only had as much authority as the board was willing to allow.”

Ramos also proposes limits on campaign contributions, instant reporting of contributions over a specified amount and the regulation of political action committees, which are commonly used to veil contributions from donors.

“If we ever want to change the dynamics of this county, we have to have reform,” Ramos said. “I will use my resources to go out and pull the public and get this on the ballot.”

Board Chairman Gary Ovitt was unavailable for comment Wednesday. Ovitt’s spokesman, Burt Southard, said Ovitt was in Washington, D.C., on behalf of San Bernardino Associated Governments, the county’s transportation planning agency.

Southard said the board has already discussed or taken action on some of the issues Ramos raises, including its contract with Greg Devereaux, which adheres to Ramos’ recommendations.

Campaign-contribution limits and regulation of PACs, however, are contentious, especially since the regulation of PACs falls under the purview of the state and not the county, Southard said.

He said Ovitt will look at Ramos’ proposal and refer it to county counsel for review.

Supervisor Paul Biane said the county has taken great strides in the past decade to clean up corruption and disagrees with Ramos’ opinion on the state of county government.

“The bottom line is, we’re the Board of Supervisors. That’s our job, to supervise,” Biane said. “There is room for improvement in the county to continue to move forward and to be more transparent and to address issues of corruption, and the district attorney’s recommendations are welcome, but I think his preamble is highly inaccurate.”

Supervisor Neil Derry doesn’t believe the issues Ramos addresses in his paper are about corruption as much as they are about bad management.

“The idea that we have too much executive power has to do more with management issues than the Board (of Supervisors),” Derry said. “It’s just the chain of command that’s all screwed up. Our current CAO is working to resolve that issue.”

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