Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/30/2013 08:24:55 PM PST
Updated: 01/30/2013 08:49:52 PM PST
A San Diego Superior Court judge on Wednesday tentatively dismissed a nine-year-old lawsuit by San Bernardino County against three public agencies in which the county sought to recoup a portion of a $102 million legal settlement the defendants say was corrupt.
At the crux of Judge Ronald Prager’s 4-page decision was former Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Postmus’ March 2011 guilty plea to a felony conflict-of-interest charge.
Postmus admitted he accepted a bribe from Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum in exchange for his vote approving the landmark settlement with Burum’s investor group, Colonies Partners LP, in November 2006.
The settlement ended nearly five years of legal battle between the county and Burum over a flood-control project on a 434-acre Upland parcel that Colonies Partners bankrolled.
In motions filed with the court and heard Wednesday by Prager, the county argued that its lawsuit, filed in November 2004, was to show that the defendants – San Bernardino Associated Governments, Upland and Caltrans – should be held liable for a portion of the settlement payments, regardless of whether or not the settlement was corrupt.
The defendants argued in their motions that Postmus’ guilty plea was an admission he violated state conflict-of-interest laws and therefore voided the settlement.
Prager sided with the defendants in his tentative ruling. He is expected to issue his final ruling within a week. he judge cited a 2005 case in which the court found that evidence of a public official’s guilty plea to a conflict-of-interest violation was a sufficient basis for dismissal of an indemnity claim. He also cited a 2008 San Bernardino County case that held that contracts in violation of Section 1090 of the state Government Code are against fundamental public policy.
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