Ryan Carter, Staff Writer
Created: 03/28/2012 07:23:04 PM PDT

Attorneys for developer Colonies Partners LP are seeking dismissal of a civil lawsuit that would force the developer to pay back a $102 million legal settlement to taxpayers.

Two citizens groups filed the lawsuit in February, arguing that an ongoing investigation into the settlement – which has resulted in four indictments and a guilty plea by a former county supervisor – voids the settlement and that the money should be returned to taxpayers.

In his reply to the lawsuit filed Wednesday, Colonies attorney Stephen Larson contended the citizens groups – the Inland Oversight Committee and Citizens for Responsible Equitable Environmental Development – do not have standing to file the lawsuit, that their legal argument is flawed and that the statute of limitations has lapsed.

“Plaintiff’s complaint fails because it is legally unsupported and untimely on its face,” Larson wrote in the reply.

The citizens groups’ lawsuit argues, essentially, that because the settlement was tainted by corruption, its proceeds should be returned to taxpayers.

Last May, a grand jury indicted Colonies co-managing partner Jeff Burum, former county Supervisor Paul Biane and former supervisorial chiefs of staff Mark Kirk and Jim Erwin. State and local prosecutors allege the four conspired to secure the settlement and that campaign contributions to political action committees secretly controlled the three supervisors who approved the settlement were, in fact, bribes.

Former Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Postmus, who voted with Biane and Supervisor Gary Ovitt to approve the settlement, has pled guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges and is cooperating with prosecutors in return for a lighter sentence.

In a December interview with federal investigators, Postmus said that there was no specific agreement with Colonies for campaign contributions prior to settling the land-use lawsuit, though he acknowledged that Burum had promised future political support in the event the case was settled.

To read entire story, click here.