By Mark Gutgleuck
Friday, January 6, 2012
Originally Published: Friday, December 30, 2011

As of earlier this week, former state assemblyman Brett Granlund had actively avoided several attempts to serve him with a subpoena relating to the Colonies Settlement case.

Well informed sources have told the Sentinel that lawyers for the defendants in the Colonies case want to question Granlund with regard to his knowledge about several aspects of the criminal prosecution of former county supervisor Paul Biane, former Fourth Supervisorial District chief-of-staff Mark Kirk, former sheriff’s deputy union president Jim Erwin and Rancho Cucamonga-based developer Jeff Burum.

In May, Biane, Erwin, Kirk and Burum were named in a 29-count indictment charging them with conspiracy, bribery and extortion related to what prosecutors allege was an effort to improperly settle for a $102 million payout a lawsuit Burum’s company, Colonies Partners, had brought against the county over flood control issues at its development project in northeast Upland. In November 2006, Biane, who was then the county’s Second District supervisor, Fourth District supervisor Gary Ovitt and then-First District supervisor Bill Postmus voted to approve that settlement in a 3-2 vote opposed by then-supervisor Dennis Hansberger and supervisor Josie Gonzales.

Postmus, who along with Erwin was previously charged with conspiracy and bribery in conjunction with his vote on the $102 million settlement, in March pleaded guilty to soliciting and receiving bribes, conspiracy and conflict of interest, and agreed to turn state’s evidence. In April, he was the star witness before the grand jury that indicted Biane, Burum and Kirk and reindicted Erwin.

Prosecutors’ allege Burum, together with Erwin, who was once the president of the county’s sheriff’s deputies’ union and was then working as a consultant to the Colonies Partners, prior to the November 2006 vote threatened to carry out an informational campaign involving mailers revealing Postmus’ homosexuality and use of illegal drugs and Biane’s insolvency, but ultimately refrained from the distribution of the information. These “threatening, menacing, commanding or coercing” acts, constituted extortion, the prosecution alleges. After the vote, Burum provided two political action committees controlled by former supervisor Bill Postmus with separate $50,000 checks, a political action committee controlled by Erwin with a $100,000 check, a political action committee created by Kirk with a $100,000 check, and a political action committee founded by Biane’s chief-of-staff Matt Brown, but which prosecutors claim was secretly controlled by Biane, with a check for $100,000. Those checks constituted bribes, prosecutors maintain. Prosecutors allege that Kirk influenced Ovitt’s vote. Kirk at that time was Ovitt’s chief of staff.

Defense attorneys, who are now seeking to obtain information to compromise the credibility of Postmus, are interested in obtaining from Granlund documents related to his communication with individuals close to the district attorney as well as the district attorney directly or indirectly and information bearing upon the motivation driving the prosecution. Granlund was once a powerful player in Republican politics in San Bernardino County, as was Postmus. Granlund has close ties to former supervisor Dennis Hansberger, Hansberger’s one-time chief of staff Jim Rissmiller, district attorney Mike Ramos and others within Ramos’s political circle. Reportedly, Granlund served as a go-between in discussions involving the district attorney’s office and Postmus in the months leading up to Postmus’ decision to turn state’s evidence. Both Hansberger and Rissmiller testified before the grand jury that indicted Biane, Burum, Erwin and Kirk.

Sources tell the Sentinel that a private investigator and process server working for one defendant’s legal team has sought to make contact with Granlund to serve him with a subpoena. As of early this week, that effort has not succeeded and in recent days, Granlund has gone to ever more extreme effort to avoid being served, refusing to answer knocks upon his door and using other tactics to evade the process server. Efforts to locate him at Platinum Advisors, the Sacramento-based lobbying firm that employs him, were thwarted when employees claimed that Granlund does not work out of that office.

In conversations he assumed to be confidential with friends and associates in San Bernardino County and the state capitol, Granlund has expressed anger with the defense’s efforts to “drag” him into the matter and he expressed concern that the questions he might be subjected to could raise issues problematic to him personally and professionally.