Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 02/08/2012 06:05:39 PM PST
In an October interview with federal authorities, former San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus said he did not consider a $100,000 campaign contribution from Colonies Partners LP a bribe.
Postmus’ statement, from an interview transcript obtained by The Sun, appears to contradict his guilty plea to charges of conspiracy and bribery in state court, where prosecutors contend campaign contributions to political action committees were part of a conspiracy by Colonies to secure a huge settlement to a land-rights dispute with the county.
In an interview with FBI Agent Jonathan Zeitlin and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jerry Behnke and Joseph Widman, Postmus admitted that he continues to struggle with his methamphetamine addiction and had taken the drug a “couple dozen times” in 2011. In addition, Postmus said the peak of his drug use was in 2006 and 2007, roughly the time of the Colonies’ $102 million settlement and Postmus’s transition into the Assessor’s Office, according to the interview transcript.
Defense attorneys have made it clear that Postmus’s drug abuse will be a key issue in arguing his credibility as a witness for the prosecution.
Postmus’s testimony before a criminal Grand Jury in April helped state and local prosecutors indict Colonies’ co-managing partner Jeff Burum, former county Supervisor Paul Biane, former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin, and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt.
The four are accused of conspiring, along with Postmus, to secure the settlement, in Colonies’ favor, in exchange for bribes and political favors. All four deny any wrongdoing.
At the time of the county’s landmark settlement with Colonies investor group, which ended more than four years of litigation over flood control easements at Colonies’ 434-acre residential and commercial development in Upland, Postmus was chairman of the Board of Supervisors, and was preparing to enter his newly elected post as county Assessor.
In March, Postmus pleaded guilty to conspiring to receive bribes and for asking for and receiving bribes. He has agreed to cooperate with authorities and testify against the four defendants at trial in exchange for reduced charges. His plea bargain, however, does not apply to the federal investigation, which remains pending.
“There’s no quid pro quo for talking to the federal government,” said Postmus’s attorney Stephen Levine. “It’s not covered by his plea bargain, although it goes towards his plea bargain because it’s cooperation.”
Though prosecutors allege Burum bribed Postmus and the other defendants with $100,000 contributions to political action committees the defendants allegedly controlled, Postmus told federal officials he wasn’t made aware of the $100,000 contribution until after the settlement. He said either Jim Erwin or former Assistant Assessor Adam Aleman, through Erwin, informed him that Colonies wanted to contribute the money in January or February of 2007, two and three months after the settlement.
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