Sunday, August 29, 2010 – 2:40 pm
It’s finally crunch time in the multi-year corruption probe launched by San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos.
And one has to wonder what Ramos told Attorney General Jerry Brown in regards to his evidence?
There’s a bigger question starting to be asked by some close to the investigation.
Was Brown lied to?
The recent acquisition of attorney-client and mediation privileged materials related to the $102 million settlement between the County of San Bernardino and Colonies Partners is said by sources to be the final investigative puzzle piece. District Attorney insiders say now that Ramos’ investigators have the material, a so-called “filing decision” related to five alleged un-named co-conspirators is approaching.
A decision that sources say is now totally in Brown’s hands.
Currently, two out of seven alleged co-conspirators stand charged by Brown and Ramos. The two charged, former Assessor and County Supervisor Bill Postmus and former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin are currently fighting charges in court. Charges leveled against Postmus and Erwin related to the settlement include bribery and extortion.
Five others, previously reported by The Sun newspaper to be Colonies co-managing partners, Jeff Burum and Dan Richards, public relations consultant Patrick O’Reilly, county supervisor Paul Biane, and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff to supervisor Gary Ovitt, remain uncharged.
It should be noted that Burum, was an early backer of republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman, and was slated to be her state finance chair before Brown leveled allegations against him. Whitman faces Brown in a showdown for Governor in November.
At a February 10, 2010 televised press conference, Brown labeled the settlement as possibly the worst case of fraud in state history. He further said the settlement was a result of a scheme to defraud taxpayers and was without any legal basis. Brown further said the settlement was approved against the recommendation of any attorney and no appraisal had been obtained related to the land at the heart of the matter.
Insiders tell InlandPolitics.com that Brown’s publicly inflammatory statements don’t quite correlate with what investigators received the past several weeks.
First, a licensed attorney did recommend the settlement to county supervisors. The attorney, Edward Panelli, a retired associate justice of the California Supreme Court, who presided over formal discussions leading up to the settlement, reviewed supporting documentation including court rulings before issuing his recommendation.
Second, not one appraisal, but two, were actually completed to determine the value of the property taken from Colonies Partners for flood conrol purposes and involved at the center of the dispute.
Third, without the spin of Adam Aleman, a prosecution witness with dubious credibility, alleged bribes that consisted of $400,000 in contributions to five political action committees appear to be nothing more than just that, contributions to actual committees that in reality functioned as political committees and nothing more. Investigators apparently continued pursuing their targets, even after serious false statements and truthfulness issues with Aleman became known.
Insiders also say investigators have been methodically careful to avoid soliciting any information damaging to Aleman’s character and conduct that could be deemed exculpatory to defense attorneys.
Aleman has pled guilty to four felony charges related to destruction of government property and providing false information to a grand jury. Other charges against Aleman are awaiting dismissal.
He is awaiting sentencing.
One attorney source involved in the settlement talks, who was recently interviewed by Ramos’ investigators described their experience as a joke. The attorney said “You would think you are suppose to let a person you are interviewing talk”, when describing the approach taken by the investigators.
Apparently investigators were seeking certain answers to their questions, without explanation from the witness. A sign investigators are trying to steer the investigations outcome ,with little regard for the truth.
Sources say Ramos’ investigators have placed themselves in the unfortunate position of seeking the means to an end. Something that has raised anxiety within Ramos’ Bureau of Investigation and administration.
Brown is reportedly pressuring Ramos to come up with the goods on the remaining five targets. However, all materials recently turned over do nothing to help the prosecution, but instead bolster the defense.
Some well-placed sources believe a failure to charge the additional targets effectively unwinds the case against Postmus and Erwin, while at the same time creating political damage and questions for Ramos, who was recently reelected to a new four-year term.
Brown on the other hand faces no long-term consequences. He will depart as Attorney General in January, destined for either the Governor’s office or a $109,000 annual pension.
Was Brown played by Ramos on this one. One district Attorney source says that if Erwin hadn’t publicy pressured Ramos to bring in Brown’s office he never would have.
Was this truly a political vendetta on Ramos’ part? It’s starting to look that way.
Brown, a media hungry candidate for Governor, may have been a ripe target for Ramos to exploit.
One has to wonder what Brown was told.