San Bernardino County Supervisor Neil Derry

BY IMRAN GHORI
STAFF WRITER
ighori@pe.com

Published: 23 January 2012 08:14 PM

San Bernardino County Supervisor Neil Derry will return to normal voting at today’s board meeting even as he sparred with federal officials over the exact nature of his eight-month suspension.

Due to criminal charges he faced last year, Derry had not taken part in votes involving federal funds.

That suspension from voting on federal government contracts ended Thursday, according to a letter from the Federal Highway Administration dated Jan. 13. The letter goes on to rebuke Derry over his guilty plea to a misdemeanor in July and states that an eight-month debarment — during which he was disqualified from voting on government contracts — was imposed as a result.

Derry and his attorney took issue with the letter and accused federal officials of not following their own procedures. They said they had threatened to sue the agency over the lengthy period it was taking in clearing him for voting.

“Basically, this letter was to cover their tails for not doing their jobs for the last four months,” Derry said. “Incompetence bordering on malfeasance.”

Derry began recusing himself from votes involving federal funds shortly after the state attorney general charged him last April with two felonies and a misdemeanor over a campaign contribution.

The charges against Derry stemmed from a $5,000 campaign contribution in May 2007 that prosecutors said Derry attempted to launder through a committee controlled by former county Assessor Bill Postmus, who pleaded guilty to criminal charges last year in a separate case.

Federal transportation and community development money can be withheld from agencies when members of their governing boards are accused of money laundering, bribery and other corruption-related charges. The Board of Supervisors, along with other agencies that Derry serves on, deal with large amounts of federal dollars, raising concerns that the money could be jeopardized.

A little over two months after the charges were filed, Derry accepted a plea deal in which the two felonies were dismissed and he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor. But getting himself cleared to vote ended up taking much longer.

Derry’s attorney, George Newhouse, said federal officials placed Derry on suspension pending the outcome of the criminal case but after that was resolved in July they had no cause to prevent him from voting. Derry did so voluntarily out of concern for his constituents, Newhouse said.

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