10:00 PM PDT on Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Press-Enterprise

San Bernardino County supervisors Tuesday rejected an offer to settle a lawsuit by its former top administrator who has accused the county of firing him for cooperating with corruption investigations.

Mark Uffer, who lost his job as county administrative officer in November 2009, sought a $3.5 million payment plus medical and life insurance benefits for himself and his family, according to an Aug. 27 letter from his attorney released by the county.

“The county’s decision to reject the demand is consistent with our view that the lawsuit is completely meritless,” Lou Klein, a private attorney representing the county, said in a statement.

County spokesman David Wert said the benefits Uffer sought are valued at millions of dollars.

Uffer’s attorney, Sanford Kassel, said the county specifically asked him to provide a settlement offer. He accused the county of overstating the value of the benefits.

“The offer that was previously submitted to the county had terms and conditions that were submitted in a very reasonable and good faith effort to permit the county an opportunity to avoid very significant costs and ultimate litigation expenses,” Kassel said.

Wert said Kassel has been seeking to try the case through the media and the county “is going to be equally upfront about everything that happens in this case.”

Uffer said he’s “not backing down at all” from his lawsuit, claiming that he was fired in retaliation for his cooperation with investigators.

The case is still in its early stages. Kassel began depositions with two county officials last week. Several officials, including all five supervisors, will be deposed in the coming weeks, he said.

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