Joe Nelson and Mike Cruz, Staff Writers
Posted: 01/06/2012 01:08:11 PM PST

SAN BERNARDINO – Defense attorneys in a San Bernardino County corruption case are requesting documents from a public safety labor union they believe will help refute allegations of blackmail against a Rancho Cucamonga developer and the union’s former president.

The attorneys are also seeking from the county’s Flood Control District documents from its nearly five-year legal battle with Rancho Cucamonga-based Colonies Partners LP. Colonies’ co-managing partner Jeff Burum filed a civil lawsuit against the county in March 2002, alleging the county refused to pay for flood control improvements on property owned by Colonies Partners’.

The requests were addressed Friday by lawyers for four defendants in the alleged corruption case – Burum, former county Supervisor Paul Biane, former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin, and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt – during proceedings in San Bernardino Superior Court.

The four men have been charged with multiple felonies, including conspiracy and conflict of interest stemming from the county’s landmark $102 million settlement with Colonies Partners in November 2006.

The documents sought from the Safety Employees Benefit Association, or SEBA, include voter guides and other records that defense attorneys believe show the union’s support for Measure P – a ballot initiative aimed at bringing term limits and pay raises to county supervisors.

Defense lawyers want the SEBA documents so they can refute Grand Jury testimony, which alleged that Burum influenced Biane to support the lawsuit settlement by creating a campaign to oppose Biane’s Measure P initiative.

At the time, Erwin was the president of SEBA. Erwin’s attorney, Rajan Maline, said Friday that SEBA’s support for Measure P was never in question.

“We want those records to show the unwavering support for Measure P,” Maline said later, outside of court.

In Burum’s lawsuit against the county, he alleged the county abandoned its 70-year-old flood control easements on property owned by Colonies Partners’, a consortium of 22 investors who paid into the 434-acre residential and commercial development in Upland. Burum argued that the county forced Colonies to pay for a 67-acre flood control basin that should be the county’s responsiblity.

Prosecutors allege Burum and the three other defendants conspired together for the county to settle the lawsuit for $102 million. They allege the settlement was tainted by blackmail and bribery.

Among the allegations: Burum, in late 2006, bankrolled a campaign against Biane’s Measure P that would limit term limits for supervisors to three and increase their salaries by roughly 50 percent.

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