Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 09/30/2010 10:16:56 PM PDT

Before Bill Postmus was elected San Bernardino County assessor, he discussed with close friend and confidant Adam Aleman an elaborate scheme to run a political operation out of the office at taxpayer expense, according to court testimony Thursday.

Part of that plan entailed Postmus creating, while still chairman of the Board of Supervisors, 13 new executive positions at the Assessor’s Office. He would fill those positions with friends and political allies to help run his political machine, Aleman said Thursday in San Bernardino Superior Court in the trial of former assessor’s official Rex Gutierrez.

“Mr. Postmus wanted basically to bring a lot of his staff members over from the Board of Supervisors. He had power and he wanted to continue that power,” said Aleman, 27.

The commencement of Aleman’s testimony Thursday began to lay out the foundation for a conspiracy prosecutors allege was carried out by Postmus and furthered with Gutierrez’s hiring at the Assessor’s Office in March 2007.

Prosecutors allege Postmus hired Gutierrez – a Rancho Cucamonga councilman – as a political favor to developer Jeff Burum, who contributed to both Postmus’ and Gutierrez’s political campaigns and relied on Postmus and Gutierrez to aid him in his business dealings in the county and in Rancho Cucamonga, allegations both Burum and Gutierrez deny.

Gutierrez is charged with criminal conspiracy, grand theft and filing a fraudulent claim. He is accused of filing falsified time records and mileage logs and bilking taxpayers out of thousands of dollars.

Gutierrez’s attorney, Jim Reiss, maintains that during Gutierrez’s 20-month stint at the Assessor’s Office, all his supervisors signed off or authorized his time records and mileage. In addition, Gutierrez received glowing performance evaluations and four raises.

Aleman, a key witness for the prosecution, pleaded no contest in June 2009 to felony counts of vandalism, tampering with public documents and making a fraudulent claim in connection with the scandal that rocked the Assessor’s Office in 2008. As part of a plea bargain with prosecutors, he agreed to testify against his former colleagues in exchange for a lighter sentence.

Reiss will cross-examine Aleman when testimony resumes Monday. Reiss said during his opening statement Wednesday that Aleman is an unreliable witness because of his criminal conviction and plea bargain.

In other testimony Thursday, Sheila Raines, the executive secretary for the county assessor, said Gutierrez was often absent from work, and when he was at work, would often do Rancho Cucamonga-related work.

But her testimony often appeared contradictory.

For example, Raines said that on most days, Gutierrez arrived in the office between 8 and 8:30 a.m. and left around 5 p.m. But then she said that Gutierrez often left for the day around lunch time and often was nowhere to be found.

“After about six or seven weeks of employment, he’d leave the office at lunch, and I wouldn’t see him again for the rest of the day,” Raines said.

When Reiss asked Raines if Gutierrez’s work habits affected her ability to do her job, Raines said she felt that Gutierrez was affecting her employment status because the office was under investigation by the Grand Jury at the time.

“The things he was doing was things I was being asked by the Grand Jury,” Raines said.

To read entire story, click here.