By City Attorney James F. Penman
Posted: 11/02/2011 10:22:49 AM PDT

City attorney prosecutors have been investigating alleged irregularities involving city contracts, and cooperating with the county Grand Jury’s confidential investigation into similar allegations involving some of the same individuals who control both City Hall and the San Bernardino airport. Therefore, we have been unable to comment on this matter.

Since the FBI airport raid and the press reports of search warrants naming Mayor Patrick Morris, we can now confirm that we have been investigating contract irregularity complaints, allegedly occurring in City Hall, interviewing suspects and witnesses for some time.

Elected city attorneys are expressly authorized to prosecute violations of the state’s Political Reform Act pursuant to Government Code 91001.5, and to prosecute violations of our city’s Municipal Code.

The district attorney has more than 20 cities in our county to police for corruption, plus county government and its officials. The San Bernardino city attorney only has to police one city, San Bernardino. Therefore, we give more direct attention to charges of corruption and mismanagement than most cities receive.

These investigations often result in “push back” criticism against us by other elected officials and their subordinates. Recently, one department head, while being interviewed during an investigation into charges of contract irregularities and Public Records Act violations, objected to the questions we asked. After becoming progressively more defensive during the interview, he abruptly announced he would not answer any more questions without a lawyer and exited the interview. That was his right. He says he “felt threatened.”

City department heads need to understand that they are accountable for their actions, the same as their employees, and are subject to tough questioning during lawfully authorized investigations, such as those conducted by our Office. Their criticisms do not deter us.

Immediately prior to each of several recent city elections, including this one, some city department head has publicly claimed that the city attorney “bullied” him or “lied” to him. Not mentioned in these false accusations is that in each instance the City Attorney’s Office was either conducting an investigation authorized by law, or attempting to determine why city policies or ordinances were not being followed. In every case, once the election was over, nothing more was heard of the allegations until the next election when it starts all over again, as it did beginning last week.

Our recently retired, short-term police chief has entered into the fray of all three of the most recent city elections including the current one. The fact that before retiring, he applied for a chief’s job in another state and moved from San Bernardino to Corona without informing the City Council or his officers beforehand is not illegal. However, the motive for this Corona resident to continue to inject himself into our elections is suspect.

Not surprisingly, four other retired San Bernardino police chiefs – B. Warren Cocke, Ben Gonzales, Dan Robbins and Lee Dean – have endorsed my re-election bid along with three of our former mayors – Judith Valles, Evlyn Wilcox and Tom Minor. If I were an “obstructionist” who engaged in “bullying” or lying, I would have none of their endorsements.

Some say city department heads should focus on their duties, keep street lights on and fight crime instead of promoting the mayor’s political agenda. Perhaps such misplaced priorities are part of the reason we don’t have enough police officers and why our street lights are not properly maintained?

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