Patrick Morris

San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 10/25/13, 7:13 PM PDT |

SAN BERNARDINO >> City Attorney James F. Penman’s statements regarding the criminal allegations against Councilman Robert Jenkins imply that Penman’s political persuasions influenced his legal actions and “completely abrogate (his) ability to act as city attorney,” Mayor Pat Morris charges in a highly critical memo.

According to the memo, which Morris says is written as part of his responsibility under the city charter to “vigilantly observe the official conduct of all public officers,” Penman’s comments to this newspaper, Police Chief Robert Handy and Morris himself leave the mayor “deeply disturbed.”

On the day the charges against Jenkins were announced, Penman told this newspaper that a witness allegedly saw Jenkins’ partner, who had Jenkins’ house key and email password, enter the house on at least one occasion when no one was home. Jenkins believes his former partner planted the incriminating material on the computer, Penman said.

Jenkins was charged last week with 30 felony and misdemeanor counts in an alleged Internet stalking case involving his ex-boyfriend and another man.

The memo recounts a conversation with Handy from a day earlier, in which Penman allegedly shared “confidential and sealed information regarding the Jenkins investigation and charges, to which even our Police Chief did not have access.”

“In this discussion, you stated how you intended to position yourself with the media and reveal that there was additional information that may be exculpatory for Mr. Jenkins,” the memo states. “When the Police Chief cautioned you about getting involved in this matter, you stated to the Police Chief that Mr. Jenkins was an informed council member and sought your advice before making decisions and it was important for Mr. Jenkins to stay on the dais as a council member.”

Penman pans the memo as election-motivated rhetoric in Morris’ case and an apparent misunderstanding in Handy’s case.

“Some of the remarks the chief attributed to me were ones I did not make and some others were taken out of context,” he said.

Handy stands by the accuracy of Morris’ summary.

“Mr. Penman says no, but I say yes,” Handy said Thursday, the day he announced he was leaving San Bernardino to become Huntington Beach’s police chief.

Morris argues that Penman’s statements — “reflective of statements that would be made by a criminal defense attorney for their client” — compromise his responsibility to protect the city for two reasons.

First, the charges against Jenkins include allegations that he created a false San Bernardino Police Department memo using the names of two police officers. Police might therefore be witnesses in the trial and need legal advice that Morris, a former judge, says Penman can’t “ethically and legally” give under the California Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys because of his earlier statements.

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