By Richard K. De Atley | firstname.lastname@example.org | The Press-Enterprise
Published: March 27, 2018 at 4:43 pm | Updated: March 27, 2018 at 5:06 pm
San Bernardino County officials have been mostly subdued after the Colonies bribery case collapsed in acquittals last year — but now a private attorney for the county has attacked Colonies co-managing partner Jeff Burum, saying even a not-guilty verdict for him and his co-defendants “is not a vindication of their conduct.”
The statement from Los Angeles attorney Charles E. Slyngstad came Monday, March 26, as the county and its Flood Control District filed a response to a federal lawsuit filed by Rancho Cucamonga-based Colonies Partners that seeks $80 million in damages from several county and state defendants.
The county and the Flood Control District deny the suit’s allegations in court papers. It’s the latest dispute in nearly 20 years of clashes between the county and the developer.
“The defendants in this case were unjustly sued … They are looking forward to an opportunity to show in this civil case that Colonies and Mr. Burum acted inappropriately and continue to act inappropriately in influencing politics for their own financial gain and windfall,” Slyngstad said in a news release.
Burum pushed back.
“The County’s decision to hire new lawyers who have no understanding of what the County has done to me and my partners the last two decades shows they are only interested in saving face, not serving justice,” Burum said in a statement Tuesday.
The March 1 Colonies lawsuit claims the years-long criminal case was retaliatory, used fabricated evidence and harmed the reputation of the developer.
It also says the county breached an agreement to provide indemnity for Colonies after the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 in November 2006 to pay the developer a $102 million settlement over flood-control issues on Colonies’ 434-acre residential and commercial development in Upland.
Prosecutors said four contributions of $100,000 each, sent months later to the political action committees of politicians or others connected with the Colonies settlement approval, were after-the-fact bribes. The defendants denied any wrongdoing and pointed out the contributions were transparent and available online for public scrutiny.
The Colonies settlement was the focus of an investigation by the state Attorney General and San Bernardino County District Attorney that began in July of 2009 and resulted in a 2011 indictment that was not tried until 2017.
The case ended when a jury acquitted three defendants, including Burum, and charges were dismissed against a fourth.
While the recent lawsuit was filed by Colonies Partners and not Burum, Slyngstad, representing the county and the Flood Control District, went after Burum in his statement.
Slyngstad said his clients “see this case for what it is: another attempt by a multimillionaire to take more taxpayer money. Mr. Burum is treating this case like a bargaining chip in a business deal … The fact that Mr. Burum and others were found not guilty is not a vindication of their conduct and does not make the County and the District responsible for the cost of a criminal defense or other costs allegedly paid for by Colonies Partners.”
Burum dismissed Slyngstad’s criticism.
“I don’t care about the empty posturing of arrogant and wayward politicians and their attorneys, I only care about the opinions of judges and jurors. I will continue to let them do my talking for me in their next verdict,” Burum said in his Tuesday statement.
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