09:38 AM PST on Wednesday, March 2, 2011

By IMRAN GHORI
The Press-Enterprise

Special Section: San Bernardino County Corruption Probe

A former San Bernardino County assessor’s employee convicted of corruption charges must repay the county most of his salary, a Superior Court judge ruled.

Rex Gutierrez, a former assessor’s intergovernmental relations officer, must pay the county $135,987.80, Judge Duke Rouse stated in an order last week. The amount represents 65 percent of the salary and benefits he collected during his 22 months of county employment, starting in March 2007.

Gutierrez is now serving a two-year, eight-month prison sentence at Tehachapi State Prison after a jury found him guilty in October of two counts of grand theft, one count of conspiracy and one count of filing a false claim.

He resigned his longtime position as a Rancho Cucamonga councilman following his conviction.

The restitution would be collected from his future earnings after he serves his prison sentence.

Gutierrez was one of six men arrested as part of an investigation into the assessor’s office under former assessor Bill Postmus, who is also facing criminal charges.

Witnesses testified Postmus gave Gutierrez the job at the request of influential developer Jeff Burum, with the understanding that Gutierrez would have little real work to do. Gutierrez supported Burum’s projects when they came before the Rancho Cucamonga City Council, according to prosecutors.

Burum, who has not been charged, has denied any wrongdoing.

At a hearing last month, Deputy District Attorney John Goritz argued that Gutierrez should pay back all of his salary and benefits — $209,212 — calling his job a sham. Any work he did was to maintain that cover, Goritz said.

He said prosecutors continue to feel a higher amount is justified but are satisfied with the outcome.

“We felt it represents a substantial recovery for the taxpayers,” Goritz said.

In his ruling, Rouse stated “a review of all of the evidence supports the finding that the defendant provided some work or benefit of the county” and determined that amount to be 35 percent.

James Reiss, Gutierrez’s attorney, said the percentages should have been reversed and Gutierrez only held responsible to pay 35 percent of his earnings.

Gutierrez has appealed his conviction and plans to challenge the restitution amount as part of that appeal, Reiss said.

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