Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/04/2010 03:41:11 PM PDT

Ruth Stringer, who has served as San Bernardino County government’s top lawyer for about four years, has announced plans to retire.

“The office of County Counsel has been a fantastic place to have a career in legal practice,” Stringer, 61, said.

Stringer has not set a date for her final day in office, but hopes to be retired around December, she said.

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to begin discussing options for finding Stringer’s successor in closed session on Tuesday.

The County Counsel’s Office has more than 40 lawyers on its payroll. The board may name a new leader for that office on Tuesday, Board chairman Gary Ovitt said.

If selected Tuesday, the next person to serve as County Counsel will take over after a transitional period, said Ovitt, who also praised Stringer’s legal work.

“She’s obviously been a stellar member of the County Counsel for many years,” Ovitt said. “Obviously, we appreciate the quality lawyership she’s provided for us and we wish her well.”

Stringer, who earned her law degree at University of La Verne, spent her entire legal career working for San Bernardino County. She joined the county’s legal office and was appointed as interim county counsel in November 2006.

Her posting became permanent in March 2007.

Stringer’s tenure has included some of county government’s most tumultuous activities in recent memory.

Her first day as County Counsel was the very day the Board of Supervisors approved – by a 3-2 vote – the $102 million settlement with a development firm called Colonies Partners LP.

The settlement – never signed by county attorneys oroutside counsel – is now at the center of a corruption case against former county officials Bill Postmus and Jim Erwin, and five alleged co-conspirators who have not been charged.

Prosecutors allege that Postmus, who was chairman of the Board of Supervisors when the settlement went through, participated in a conspiracy to push through the settlement in exchange for political donations from Colonies figures.

Postmus and Erwin have pleaded not guilty to the accusations. In September, a San Bernardino County Superior Court judge nixed five of the nine charges filed against Erwin.

Colonies co-managing partner Jeff Burum has said no conspiracy ever existed, and that political contributions alleged to be part of the plot were transparent efforts to heal Colonies-county government relations after a bitter lawsuit.

His attorney, John Vandevelde, has said that the probe into the alleged conspiracy was a witch hunt.

Political fallout from the Colonies case or other intra-county disputes are not the reason Stringer chose to retire, she and Ovitt said.

“We live in very interesting times. This is a very challenging job, but no, I am very confident in the legal advice we’ve given the board,” Stringer said.

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