Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 07/17/2011 11:03:17 PM PDT

A pretrial hearing for San Bernardino County Supervisor Neil Derry will likely be delayed because Derry’s attorney will ask that a judge from another jurisdiction preside over the hearing.

“Derry, as a supervisor of the county, technically could have the power to make decisions about the judge presiding over the preliminary hearing,” George Newhouse, Derry’s attorney, said Friday.

Newhouse said his request should delay the preliminary hearing, which is scheduled for Thursday in San Bernardino Superior Court. A judge from another jurisdiction, Newhouse said, would guarantee impartiality.

San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Michael Dest rejected a request by Newhouse in June to dismiss the charges against Derry but did grant Newhouse’s request to allow Derry to remain free on his own recognizance.

The state Attorney General’s Office charged Derry in April with one felony count of perjury, one felony count of filing false documents and one misdemeanor count of failing to report a campaign contribution.

The charges arose out of a $5,000 campaign contribution from a Highland developer that Derry allegedly funneled in July 2007 into the account of a political action committee controlled by former county Assessor Bill Postmus, who is also a former county supervisor.

Derry, prosecutors allege, laundered the contribution so the developer’s name would not appear on his campaign finance forms.

The political action committee Derry is believed to have funneled the campaign contribution through, Inland Empire PAC, is the same PAC believed to have been used to conceal an alleged $100,000 bribe from Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum, authorities said.

In that case, which state and local prosecutors are calling the biggest corruption scandal in county history, Burum is alleged to have given $400,000 in bribes to three county officials and a union representative in exchange for securing a $102 million legal settlement in the developer’s favor.

The settlement ended nearly five years of legal battle between the county and Burum over flood-control easements at the developer’s 434-acre residential and commercial development in Upland.

The $400,000 in alleged bribes, prosecutors say, were given by way of contributions to political action committees controlled by the three supervisors who voted in favor of the settlement in November 2006 – Postmus, Gary Ovitt and Paul Biane – and Jim Erwin, then head of the San Bernardino County Safety Employees Benefit Association.

Erwin was an agent for Burum during the heated settlement negotiations while serving as a mediator between Burum and the Board of Supervisors, authorities say.

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