Mike Cruz, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/09/2011 07:02:59 PM PDT
Campaign donations from a pair of Los Angeles area businessmen to the campaign of 5th District Supervisor Josie Gonzales – about $35,000 over a three-year period – got them personal treatment when their Bloomington development started running into hurdles and delays, according to testimony in San Bernardino Superior Court.
Bob Page, former chief of staff for Gonzales, testified Monday under questioning from the defense that he met brothers Arshak and Vartan Kouladjian at a few fundraisers for Gonzales, knew they were campaign contributors, and gave them his business card.
When Arshak Kouladjian began calling Page in 2007 for assistance with county Land Use Services concerning a development on Slover Avenue, Page personally took the phone calls and sought updates from Planning and Public Works about the project.
It was a level of attention not given to every developer in the 5th District, Page testified.
Page said he could only recall two other projects that received the same level of attention during the five years he was Gonzales’ chief of staff.
Page has been on the witness stand since May 2 in San Bernardino Superior Court in the trial of the Kouladjian brothers, who face three felony counts alleging they bribed and attempted to bribe Page for his assistance with the project.
The Kouladjians did not get preferential treatment from him, Page said Monday. But he did give them personal attention and developed a business relationship with them, which included revealing details of his personal life, he testified.
But when Arshak Kouladjian slipped a half-inch thick white business envelope to Page during a lunch meeting in October 2007, Page said he was “grasping at straws” to figure out what it was.
“I was surprised an envelope was offered to me,” Page said, responding to questions from lawyer Philip Cohen, who represents Arshak Kouladjian.
Page said his first thought was maybe the envelope contained a campaign contribution. He said he told Arshak Kouladjian that he could not accept gifts.
Page told investigators he thought Arshak Kouladjian believed he was giving him some kind of special treatment.
Cohen questioned Page about whether the envelope was for work that was already done – such as a gift – or for work that was to be completed in the future.
Page denied he was an advocate for the Kouladjians and said he was doing his job, acting as a liaison.
Cohen questioned Page about whether he repeatedly told county department officials not to provide special treatment to the Kouladjians, so they would not misunderstand his repeated requests for status updates.
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