District Attorney Mike Ramos

www.sbgrapevine.com

October 9, 2010
by Administrator

Are you listening United States Attorney? San Bernardino County is in crisis. Oh yes, we have financial problems like every other jurisdiction but we will get through them in due time. Our crisis is a much more serious threat to our citizenry. It is a crisis of ethics, of safety, and of fear.

Our crisis undermines the feelings of security and well being of law-abiding citizens. It mocks those who gave their blood to protect the Constitution of the United States. It is as evil a crisis as any American community can face.

Our crisis centers around the political aspirations of our district attorney who uses his powers, not just to prosecute criminals, but to persecute political enemies. Justice no longer equates with truth but rather revenge.

California Government Code Section 26500 defines the district attorney as the chief law enforcement officer in the county. It is one of only four positions in any county that is required by the California Constitution to be elected. The others are sheriff, assessor and members of the governing body.

The California District Attorneys Association defines the ethical duties of prosecutors as follows:

In administering justice, a prosecutor must abide by a strict code of ethics. A prosecutor must always strive to discover the truth while carrying out all official duties. Furthermore, a prosecutor must “keep abreast of the law and strive to improve the legal profession.” (Professionalism Manual, CDAA, 1999). Additionally, the prosecutor must exercise the utmost professionalism as he or she is in the position of demonstrating ideal social behavior for others to follow.

At any level, the primary role of the prosecutor is to “investigate and prosecute impartially” criminal suspects on behalf of the People. Prosecutors should prosecute with “earnestness and vigor” while employing only “legitimate investigative techniques” to ensure that “guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer.” (Berger v. United States (1935) 295 U.S. 78, 88.)

In carrying out their duties, prosecutors are required to follow statutory regulations imposed on them by California’s Business and Professions Code § 6068 (a)-(d). These duties include upholding the federal and state constitutions and laws; respecting courts of justice and judicial officers; maintaining only such actions as appear to be legal or just; and employing only such means as are consistent with the truth and never seeking to mislead a judge or judicial officer.

Mike Ramos was elected as San Bernardino County District Attorney almost eight years ago. His first term in office was unremarkable. He was part of the county political machine, happy to maintain the status quo as long as his indiscretions were ignored by the county’s most influential politicos. His Public Integrity Unit did not win a single conviction of note.

As Ramos began his second term of office things started to change. Rumors increased that Congressman Jerry Lewis was considering retirement within a few terms and Ramos would likely be his chosen successor. Rifts between the West end and East end factions began to widen.

Although tensions were growing, no one seemed particularly concerned until Ramos drew a line in the sand. And suddenly no one was safe from his wrath. Absence of corpus delicti has mattered none. Figurative public flogging has ruled the day.

It is hard to pinpoint the exact day that line was drawn. The events surrounding a Grand Jury inquiry into the Assessor’s Office provided the needed fodder to launch a media blitz demonizing anyone who stood in the path of Ramos’ aspirations of a higher elected office.

The story started out simple enough. After a bitter campaign with the incumbent, Bill Postmus, former Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, was elected as Assessor in 2006, assuming office in 2007. With him he brought along a team of employees that would become known as the “Executive Staff.” The new staff were resented by many long-time Assessor employees, both for their lack of experience in the department and the benefits they received due to their exempt status.

Among the executive staff were two assistant assessors, Adam Aleman and Jim Erwin. Erwin had a controversial past due in most part to the fact that he had been president of the Safety Employees Benefit Association (SEBA), the union representing the Sheriff’s Department. It was during his time with SEBA that he developed a rocky relationship with Supervisor Paul Biane.

Tensions began to rise both within the Assessor’s Office and between Postmus and his former colleague, Supervisor Biane, prompting Biane to make a complaint to the District Attorney’s Office for deeds he, himself, had participated in. Rumors of political activity on county time began to surface and a complaint made its way to the Grand Jury.

When all was said and done, the Grand Jury found that Aleman had lied to them, altered documents, and destroyed property. They recommended dismantling of the Executive staff.

By this time Jim Erwin had already resigned. And the same day as the Grand Jury report was issued in 2008, Aleman was arrested by the District Attorney’s Office and charged with nine felony counts, including presenting a false claim, preparing false evidence, and destruction of public records.

This arrest did little to satisfy Ramos’ now insatiable appetite for press and power. The investigation continued, and on March 19, 2009, former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin was arrested for Fair Political Practices Commission violations in connection with a trip to New York City paid for by local businessman Jeff Burum. It was with this arrest that Ramos’ true motives began to show.

In the months following the Erwin arrest, the focus moved from politics in the Assessor’s Office to finding ways to embarrass Bill Postmus and Jeff Burum. Only those with a direct link to one, the other, or both were targeted. Similar behaviors were treated disparately.

For example, by the District Attorney’s definition of time card fraud, if Rex Gutierrez and Greg Eyler are guilty, then so are Ted Lehrer, Josh White, and Bob Smith, yet only the first two were charged. Of the five, Gutierrez was the closest to Burum and Eyler to Postmus.

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