Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 03/29/2010 06:16:08 PM PDT

Local and state prosecutors met with San Bernardino County Counsel Ruth Stringer on Monday to press again for the release of confidential attorney-client information regarding the county’s controversial legal settlement with Rancho Cucamonga-based developer Colonies Partners LP.

Stringer met with Assistant District Attorney Jim Hackleman and Senior Assistant Attorney General Gary Schons for about two hours.

The agencies are probing whether the county’s $102 million settlement with the developer in November 2006 over flood control easements in Upland was tainted by conspiracy, bribery and extortion.

“We did not reach a final agreement but I can say that we made some progress,” Hackleman said Monday. “We agreed to a follow-up meeting next week, and overall, we remain hopeful that we can reach an agreement.”

A day and time for the next meeting was still being determined Monday.

Prosecutors allege in court documents that Colonies co-managing partner Jeff Burum offered $100,000 bribes to then Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Postmus, Supervisor Paul Biane and Supervisor Gary Ovitt’s chief of staff, Mark Kirk, to deliver a settlement in Colonies’ favor.

Burum, Biane and Kirk are identified as unnamed co-conspirators in the court documents, but none of them have been charged with crimes.

Postmus, Biane and Ovitt ultimately approved the settlement, without the endorsements of county counsel or outside attorney’s working for the county.

On Feb. 10, prosecutors announced that Postmus and former assistant assessor Jim Erwin had been slapped with myriad felony charges, including bribery, extortion and misappropriation of public funds in connection with the scandal.

Erwin, who was Supervisor Neil Derry’s chief of staff, served as a mediator for Colonies during the settlement negotiations.

Ovitt maintains he was not persuaded by Kirk to deliver a vote. In a public statement released just after prosecutors made their allegations on Feb. 10, Ovitt said his decision “was based entirely on my own analysis of the facts presented by the county’s attorneys.”

Those facts are precisely what prosecutors say they’re seeking.

“The question we’re looking at is, `what did the board know and what advice and information did the county’s attorneys convey to the board?” Hackleman said. “Whatever that information was that was conveyed, whether orally or in writing, is precisely what we’re interested in.”

On March 17, Schons sent a letter to the board requesting it waive the attorney-client and mediation privilege. On March 23, the county released a statement saying that because Colonies was refusing to waive its mediation privilege, the county could not waive its mediation privilege.

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