Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Created: 05/04/2010 06:16:05 PM PDT

The county on Tuesday launched an investigation into allegations that Matt Brown, chief of staff for Supervisor Paul Biane, has been subjected to repeated harassment and retaliation for cooperating with state and local prosecutors in a corruption probe.

In a letter addressed to his boss and carbon-copied to the other four members of the Board of Supervisors on Monday, Brown pleaded for the alleged misconduct to stop and said he has been under the care of a doctor for job-related stress.

“I am the subject of not only harassment but believe that the conduct being exhibited by the offending parties is a direct effort to intimidate and interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation,” Brown said in his letter.

County spokesman David Wert said Tuesday that County Counsel and the human resources division were in the process of launching an administrative review.

“Because of the wording used in the letter, the county is legally obligated to review the matter to determine if there is merit to what was written,” Wert said.

Brown said he has been subjected to daily questions relating to his cooperation with law enforcement in its investigation into the November 2006 legal settlement between the county and Rancho Cucamonga-based developer Colonies Partners LP for $102 million. Prosecutors allege the settlement was tainted by bribery, conspiracy and extortion.

Brown said he has also received veiled threats of termination.

Biane said he was unaware of the alleged harassment, and was concerned about Brown’s approach in communicating the issue on Monday.

In a statement Tuesday, Biane said his first priority was his chief of staff’s health and well being.

Brown has been off work since late last week due to illness.

“He’s been a good friend and work colleague, and his well being is the most important thing to me right now. I want him to take the time he needs to get well,” Biane said. “I believe the issues Matt raised must be thoroughly investigated by county human resources to determine the source of any intimidation or threats.”

Brown is expected to return to work today.

Prosectors allege in a criminal complaint that Biane, former Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Postmus, former assistant assessor Jim Erwin and Mark Kirk, chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt, accepted $100,000 bribes from Colonies co-managing partner Jeff Burum in exchange for delivering votes favoring a settlement with the developer. The alleged bribes were funneled into the accounts of political action committees operated by the supervisors or their staff members.

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