11:46 PM PDT on Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Press-Enterprise

Special Section: San Bernardino County Probe

When former San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus took office in January 2007 he brought along a political staff whose main role was to promote his status, a former top aide to Postmus said Thursday.

Adam Aleman, a former assistant assessor, said he and Rancho Cucamonga Councilman Rex Gutierrez were part of a 13-member executive staff whose duties had minimal relation to the assessor’s office.

“A lot of our duties were promoting Bill Postmus and the brand of the politician,” Aleman said.

Aleman is a key prosecution witness against Gutierrez, 50, a former intergovernmental relations officer at the assessor’s office who is on trial for the second time. A first trial in June ended in a mistrial after the jury deadlocked on charges against him.

Gutierrez is charged with one count of conspiracy, two counts of grand theft and one count of filing a false claim. He has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors say Gutierrez got his job with the aid of influential developer Jeff Burum, with the understanding that Gutierrez would have to do little work. He is accused of defrauding taxpayers by turning in time cards for a full day’s work even though he often was reported to be absent on City Council business.

Aleman was Gutierrez’s supervisor at the assessor’s office for a time and has said that Postmus hired Gutierrez as a favor to Burum. Burum has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing.

Aleman, 27, was arrested in 2008 on charges of giving false testimony to a grand jury and destroying evidence. He is cooperating with prosecutors in exchange for reduced charges and is expected to be a witness in criminal cases against Postmus and former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin.

Deputy State Attorney General Melissa Mandel, who in a change from the first trial has taken a larger role in questioning witnesses, began by focusing on Aleman’s relationship with Postmus.

Aleman said he first met Postmus in 2001 through Republican political activities and became a close confidant. Postmus appointed him to key positions on his staff and with the county Republican party.

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