Rancho Cucamonga-based developer Jeff Burum, left, speaks with his attorney Stephen Larson in the hallway at the San Bernardino Superior Court during a recess of the Colonies corruption case. File photo. (Micah Escamilla/San Bernardino Sun)

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
and Richard K. De Atley, The Press-Enterprise
Posted: 05/10/17 – 7:43 PM PDT |

SAN BERNARDINO >> Colonies trial defendant Jim Erwin, depicted by prosecutors as scheming against former San Bernardino County Supervisor and Assessor Bill Postmus more than a decade ago, actually stood beside the beleaguered politician with “tough love” as Postmus struggled with his drug addiction, Postmus agreed in testimony Wednesday.

Erwin has been portrayed by prosecutors in the Colonies corruption case as threatening to expose Postmus’ methamphetamine addiction and his homosexuality in 2006 as leverage to get a $102 million county lawsuit settlement favorable to Rancho Cucamonga developer Colonies Partners LP approved.

Postmus has testified so far that while he heard about the hinted-at plots, he never saw evidence of them.

When Erwin did verifiably threaten to expose Postmus’ addiction, it was in a formalized May 23, 2007, memo written several months after the Colonies settlement, telling Postmus it was vital that he complete a drug rehabilitation program.

Jurors saw the memo as they heard testimony in the San Bernardino courtroom of Judge Michael A. Smith. Erwin defense attorney Rajan Maline continued his cross-examination of Postmus, now in his seventh day of testimony.

“I am sure that after much reflection you are aware that your conduct has placed into jeopardy your personal and political reputation,” Erwin, then Postmus’ assistant assessor, wrote in the 2007 memo. It also stated that Postmus’ “erratic behavior” was affecting the roughly 230 employees at the Assessor’s Office.

“After much deliberation and soul-searching, I have decided in the event that you fail to complete the aforementioned rehabilitation program … formal disclosure of your condition to the county will be required,” Erwin wrote in the memo.

“Mr. Erwin was telling you … he’s giving you tough love. Is that what we could describe this as?” Maline asked Postmus in court Wednesday.

“Yeah, I guess you can say that, unlike an enabler,” Postmus said.

Prosecutors from the District Attorney’s and state Attorney General’s offices allege three county officials each took $100,000 bribes, reported as campaign contributions, from Rancho Cucamonga developer and Colonies Partners co-managing partner Jeff Burum to gain Board of Supervisors approval for a $102 million court settlement over flood control work at Colonies’ 434-acre residential and commercial development in Upland.

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