SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Three men were arrested this morning in San Bernardino County in a $102 million bribery scheme. A fourth, former Supervisor Paul Biane, remains a fugitive from justice.
The four individuals were indicted yesterday by the San Bernardino County Grand Jury on 29 counts of conspiracy to commit bribery, misappropriation of public funds, improper influence, conflict of interest, and additional charges.
“When public officials act corruptly, every Californian is their victim,” said Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. “Let the San Bernardino indictments send a strong message that we will never tolerate this sort of abuse of the public trust.”
The indictments are the result of a combined effort by Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos. Their two agencies jointly investigated the case and presented it to the grand jury, and will share in prosecution of the charges.
Turning themselves in to authorities for arrest this morning were Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for a member of the board of supervisors and current director of government relations in the county administrative office; James Erwin, former chief of staff for a member of the board of supervisors; and Jeffrey Burum, a general partner of Colonies Partners, L.P., a developer. The three were arrested and booked at Central Detention Center in San Bernardino.
Former Supervisor Paul Biane did not turn himself in after the indictment. Biane is also charged with misappropriation of public funds, filing a fraudulent tax return, perjury, filing a false instrument, and two counts of bribery.
Kirk is also charged with bribery, improper influence, forgery, filing a fraudulent tax return, willful failure to file a tax return, four counts of perjury, three counts of filing a false instrument, and four counts involving bribery.
Burum is also charged with four counts involving bribery.
The case is part of a continuing probe by both the Attorney General and the DA into corruption in San Bernardino County.
The current charges, according to the indictment, stem from a $102 million settlement approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2006 with the developer Colonies over flood control improvements on 434 acres of land in Upland. The indictment alleges that the defendants engaged in a corrupt scheme to obtain the settlement from the county.
Between January 2005 and November 2006, according to the indictment, that corrupt scheme included Burum influencing “members of the Board of Supervisors through a combination of threats, extortion, inducements and bribery, in order to secure their vote in favor of a settlement.”
Erwin joined the conspiracy, the indictment says, and conveyed threats and/or inducements from Burum to William John Postmus (then chairman of the Board of Supervisors), Biane and Kirk. Erwin agreed to accept money in exchange for influencing the votes of Postmus and Biane. Kirk agreed to accept money to influence the vote of another member of the board. And Postmus and Biane joined the conspiracy by agreeing to accept a bribe to approve the Colonies settlement.
The bribes were $100,000 each.
After Colonies received a substantial amount of the $102 million settlement, the indictment says, Burum distributed the agreed-upon bribes and payments to Postmus, Biane, Kirk and Erwin. The defendants used political action committees to conceal the bribes.
Postmus pleaded guilty in March to 14 felony counts, including conspiracy to accept a bribe and conflict of interest. He agreed to cooperate in the continuing investigation.