Wednesday, January 19, 2011 – 03:00 P.M.
Last Updated: January 19, 2011 – 06:30 P.M.

San Bernardino County paying the legal expenses for a former official and criminal defendant?

A scenario that may actually happen for former Assesseor and County Supervisor Bill Postmus.

County Government Center sources say Postmus has petitioned the County for payment of his criminal defense related to conspiracy charges involving the controversial $102 million settlement with Colonies Partners, L.P.

Postmus, along with Jim Erwin, former chief of staff to Supervisor Neil Derry, were both charged on February 9, 2010 by District Attorney Mike Ramos and former California Attorney General Jerry Brown in a sweeping complaint alleging bribery and conspiracy involving the settlement.

Five other individuals referred to in the criminal complaint as “John Does” were never charged.

Due to his finances, Postmus was forced to dump his personal attorney, Stephen Levine, and retain a court appointed conflict panel attorney last year.

State law and case law require an official be indemnified for actions taken as a part of their official duties.

The same sources says the payment scenario may actually happen. Postmus’ defense bill is will likely be covered to include fees already paid.

The indemnification would apply only to charges arising from the Colonies case.

The county has defended the settlement as being in the best interest of the county and taxpayers. In addition, the county has filed a legal action against the California Department of Transportation, San Bernardino Associated Governments and the City of Upland to recover the entire settlement amount.

Postmus was Chairman of the Board of Supervisors when he voted on the settlement in November 2006.

The other two affirmative votes for the settlement, Supervisor Gary Ovitt and former Supervisor Paul Biane, remain uncharged. An interesting dilemma for county officials, who must deal with any claims arising from an overzealous prosecution.

The county assuming the position the settlement was legal and proper, while the DA takes the position it was criminally tainted by wrongdoing, makes for interesting legal fodder.

Also, the settlement in question was later validated by a Superior Court judge in 2007.

A lawsuit in which legal experts say the county may likely prevail.

If in fact the county is obligated to cover Postmus’ legal expenses, it will add to the multi-million dollar price tag that Ramos has spent on the entire Colonies investigation and related prosecutions.

An amount sources now estimate at more than $5 million.