Josh Dulaney, The (San Bernardino County) Sun
Posted: 10/31/2011 07:56:21 PM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO – City Attorney James F. Penman has created a cloud of fear at City Hall, including threats of raids on public officials, says Public Works Director Nadeem Majaj.

The accusations stem from an Oct. 5 meeting at which Majaj says Penman grilled him over a police report about allegations that Majaj’s predecessor showed favoritism to Matich Corp., a major asphalt producer and a contributor to Penman’s campaigns.

Majaj said he believes Penman was retaliating against him for canceling a multi-million dollar contract with Matich Corp.

Penman said he has made it a practice to recuse himself from contractual matters involving Matich Corp. during his campaigns.

Majaj wrote in an Oct. 11 memo to Penman that he is “especially concerned by your outward threats and the anger you displayed toward me during this meeting, as I do not feel safe conducting business with you, your office, or associates of your office,…”

“For the record, if anything adverse was to happen to…myself or my family, I’m confident that due to your history, clear retaliatory actions, threats, abusiveness towards me, you will become the first subject of a new investigation,” Majaj wrote.

The leaked memo comes just days ahead of the Nov. 8 election for the City Attorney’s Office, and Penman, who is facing former county Supervisor David McKenna, said his political opponents are trying to smear him.

“Under the current mayor, we’ve had leaked memos in three successive election years, all of them critical of me,” said Penman.

He said he believes they were written at the instigation of Mayor Pat Morris or had “his tacit approval.”

Jim Morris, the son and chief of staff of Mayor Morris, denied Penman’s accusation.

“The mayor knows enough that the whole incident raises some serious concerns, but he also knows this is the kind of stuff that requires he maintain great distance from it,” Jim Morris said.

In his memo to Penman, Majaj wrote that Penman’s remarks to him “escalated to threats and intimidation tactics (e.g. telling me that you were now in the role of the “City’s Prosecutor” and will have my car and home raided, as if I had committed a crime.”

The police report in question, according to Majaj, shows several public works employees accusing his predecessor, Randy Kuettle, who no longer works for the city, of , among other things, removing a city inspector from inspecting paving work by Matich Corp. because the inspector questioned the legitimacy of the work.

Majaj said Monday Kuettle resigned on Feb. 10 but stayed on with the city until April 30, doing depositions.

An investigation by the Police Department concluded that neither Matich nor Kuettle did anything illegal.

Kuettle requested a copy of the police report, and according to Majaj, Penman “demanded” that Majaj attend an “unexpected meeting” to discuss Kuettle’s public records request.

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