09:06 AM PST on Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Press-Enterprise

Former San Bernardino County assessor and supervisor Bill Postmus is asking the county to pay for his defense against criminal charges that he received bribes to approve a $102 million lawsuit settlement with a Rancho Cucamonga developer.

In a Jan. 19 letter to Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Josie Gonzales, Postmus notes that the county has maintained that the November 2006 settlement with Colonies Partners was “fair and just.”

“My actions, which were performed in the course of my work as a county supervisor, should be defended by an attorney paid for by the county,” he stated in his letter.

Postmus was chairman of the Board of Supervisors at the time of the settlement and part of a 3-2 majority that approved it. In February 2010, he and Jim Erwin, a former assistant assessor and consultant to Colonies, were accused of being part of a criminal conspiracy that involved hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes funneled through political action committees to gain approval of the deal.

In a separate case, Postmus, who became assessor in January 2007, also is facing multiple criminal charges that he misused that office for personal and political gain.

County spokesman David Wert said the county counsel’s office is reviewing Postmus’ letter and deciding how to respond.

Historically, the county is obligated to defend public officials when they are sued over actions such as approval of a land-use development, Wert said.

“Ordinarily, it doesn’t apply to a criminal case because criminal cases involve breaking the law,” he said. “Breaking the law is not part of one’s official duties.”

Wert added that the criminal charges against Postmus, which include bribery and conspiracy, involve actions alleged to have taken place outside the board vote.

Postmus has pleaded not guilty.

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