Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/27/2010 08:49:27 PM PDT

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to allow state and local prosecutors to examine confidential information from its litigation with Rancho Cucamonga developer Colonies Partners LP to facilitate a corruption probe.
Board members Josie Gonzales, Brad Mitzelfelt and Neil Derry voted 3-0 in favor of a “limited and restricted waiver” of the supervisors’ attorney-client privilege, which will allow prosecutors to examine documents from the case file and interview attorneys retained by the county during the heated litigation.

Prosecutors first requested the waiver on March 12 and then threatened legal action last week after two meetings with County Counsel Ruth Stringer and two closed-session meetings of the Board of Supervisors failed to produce a resolution.

“The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office appreciates the cooperation of the Board of Supervisors in their decision to waive the attorney/client privilege,” according to a statement released by the office Tuesday. “Although it was a difficult decision, we are gratified that the board placed the public interest first. We intend to proceed with our investigation as promptly, thoroughly and expeditiously as possible.”

Board Chairman Gary Ovitt and Supervisor Paul Biane abstained from voting on the matter Tuesday to avoid any potential conflict of interest.

Ovitt’s chief of staff, Mark Kirk, and Biane are implicated as uncharged, unnamed co-conspirators in the settlement, which prosecutors allege was tainted by a web of conspiracy, bribery and extortion.

Only former Supervisor and Assessor Bill Postmus and former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin have been charged in the case.

Prosecutors allege Colonies’ co-managing partners Jeff Burum and Dan Richards used intimidation tactics and bribery to secure the landmark $102 million settlement from the county in November 2006, which ended a four-year legal battle over flood control easements at the developer’s Colonies Crossroads development in Upland.

The county subsequently filed a lawsuit against the city of Upland, San Bernardino Associated Governments and Caltrans to recoup a portion of the settlement. That lawsuit is still pending.

Under a formal agreement by the county, the District Attorney’s and state Attorney General’s offices, prosecutors would not be able to publicly share the privileged information they gather from the county except as evidence in any criminal case.

The county would agree to share information only on the discussions leading up to the settlement, not the pending indemnity case against Caltrans, Upland and Sanbag, county spokesman David Wert said.

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