Grover Merritt - 1

Grover Merritt

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 03/30/14, 7:59 PM PDT |

San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos is trailing his challenger in contributions by nearly $22,000, according to recently released campaign finance reports reflecting the period Jan. 1 to March 27, but Ramos possesses a substantially larger war chest.

As of Friday, Ramos had raised a total of $45,099 and had $64,555 in expenditures, while his challenger, veteran San Bernardino County prosecutor Grover Merritt, had raised $67,088 and had $42,393 in expenditures, according to campaign finance reports.

Ramos had $171,613 in cash on hand — more than eight times the $19,815 cash on hand Merritt had, but Ramos has been campaigning for re-election since Jan. 1, 2012, while Merritt announced his plan to run against Ramos in September.

The primary is June 3.

Ramos’ camp has been critical of where Merritt has been receiving his money — from friends and business associates of Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum, a defendant in an ongoing public corruption case in which he is accused of bribing three former county officials to influence a legal settlement, in Burum’s favor, between the county and Burum’s real estate investor group, Colonies Partners LP, in November 2006 for $102 million.

Burum and the other three defendants in the case — former county Supervisor Paul Biane, former Assistant Assessor and labor union president Jim Erwin, and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt, deny any wrongdoing.

At least six of the individuals or entities who have contributed to Merritt’s campaign, Jack Rech, Sebastiano Sterpa, Robert Sorosky, the Matreyek Trust/Administrative Account, James Poppen and Andrew Wright, are identified members of the Colonies Partners investor group, whose contributions total $14,300.

Burum is a co-managing partner of Colonies Partners LP along with real estate investor Dan Richards.

In addition, Burum’s brother, Phillip Burum, contributed $1,000 to Merritt’s campaign.

Matthew Jordan, Burum’s partner at the Rancho Cucamonga development company Diversified Pacific, contributed $1,000, and Burum’s business partner at the Second Avenue Saloon in Upland, Mark Davidson, contributed $4,000 under his business Upland Realty Equities V Inc., according to campaign finance reports.

More than 63 percent of Merritt’s contributions have come out of the county’s West End, mainly Upland and Rancho Cucamonga, where Burum’s company and many of his friends and associates work or reside.

Ramos’ longtime campaign consultant, David Ellis, has called Merritt the “Colonies candidate.”

Merritt said there is absolutely nothing wrong with accepting contributions from Burum’s friends and business associates, and that the contributions coming from the West End shouldn’t be surprising considering he works out of the Rancho Cucamonga branch of the District Attorney’s Office.

“Beyond that, I say everybody has a First Amendment right to participate in the democratic process, and it’s not shocking that critics of the district attorney would vote for his opponent in big numbers,” Merritt said Friday. “And, of course, I encourage them to do so, again and again and again.”

Bob Stern, a Los Angeles lawyer and campaign finance and government ethics expert, concurred with Merritt.

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