Joe Nelson and Sandra Emerson, Staff Writers
Posted: 03/16/2013 05:17:55 PM PDT
Updated: 03/16/2013 06:51:03 PM PDT
After nearly nine years and roughly $46 million in taxpayer money spent by all parties involved, San Bernardino County’s indemnity lawsuit against Upland and two transportation agencies has left scars, but none that cannot be healed, officials say.
The county alleged in its lawsuit filed in November 2004 that Upland, Caltrans and San Bernardino Associated Governments – the county’s transportation planning agency also known as SanBAG – were partially responsible for causing flood damage to private property in Upland. The county argued in its lawsuit that the defendants should reimburse the county a portion of the $102 million it paid to the developer of the property, Jeff Burum, and members of his investor group, Colonies Partners LP, to settle a lawsuit Burum and Colonies brought against the county in March 2002.
Now, state and local prosecutors are saying the settlement was tainted by bribery, blackmail and extortion – allegations Burum and the other defendants in the case deny. Former Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Postmus, who voted in favor of the settlement in 2006, struck a plea deal with prosecutors in March 2011, admitting he took a $100,000 bribe from Burum in exchange for his “yay” vote.
On Tuesday, the county, Upland, SanBAG and Caltrans entered into a “walk away” settlement. The county agreed to drop its case and the defendants agreed not to pursue attorney’s fees from the county,
Over the years, the county’s lawsuit strained relationships among the government agencies and officials involved. They say they are now ready to begin mending those relationships and investing in the county’s future, not more litigation.
“I could tell that this lawsuit was absolutely toxic for our cities and county working together for the good of the region,” Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Janice Rutherford said Friday. “I’m not here to say the county was right or the cities and SanBAG and Caltrans were right. It was just time for it to be done. ”
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