As Mayor John Valdivia grapples to maintain control of his domain, stabilize his team, keep the city operating in the black and shore up credibility among his constituents, some question whether his recent decision to hire former Supervisor Paul Biane’s Chief of Staff right hand man to act as his right hand man. Valdivia is replacing his former chief of staff, Bill Essayli, with an experienced political operative who comes with a lot of baggage, Matt Brown. Though always in a supporting role, Brown has long navigated his way in and through the political structure within the inland region’s Republican party and was Biane’s Chief of Staff during the origins of the biggest political scandals to rock the region—the Colonies case. At the time Brown’s relationship with Biane extended beyond that of chief of staff, he was part of the supervisor’s political action committee and worked with him on the Republican Party’s executive committee. For a time, Brown also headed the Young Republicans political action committee. Brown and Biane enjoyed success among associates in their party and the community until the County of San Bernardino made the $102 million settlement in the Colonies case. The $102-million-dollar settlement agreement ended a lawsuit against the County of San Bernardino and its flood control district by Colonies Partners, LLC over flood control issues at the Colonies development in Upland. Former San Bernardino County Supervisors Bill Postmus and Gary Ovitt joined Biane to vote their approval of the settlement agreement. Subsequently, Colonies Partners—a team of investors led by developers Jeff Burum and Dan Richards. A few months after the settlement Burum and Richards made a series of donations to political action committees (PACs) associated with members of the board supervisors who voted in favor of the Colonies settlement. Collectively, the PAC contributions totaled about $450K—Brown was associated with some of those PACs. Before long, questions began to surface over possible improprieties in relation to the donations and possible connections to the Colonies settlement. Some saw the whole scenario as quid pro quo. Soon both the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office and the California State Attorney General were involved. Brown allegedly cooperated with the investigation to avoid prosecution himself and in the process helped make a case for conviction against Biane and others. Part of Brown’s cooperation included grand jury testimony where he is alleged to have connected the $102- million-dollar Colonies settlement with the PAC contributions from Burum and Richards.
As might be imagined the relationship between Brown and Biane soured once Biane learned of the betrayal. The case dragged on for years at a high (still unknown) cost to the county of San Bernardino. Much of the case hinged on Brown’s testimony that he later backed away from claiming he was pressured by the district attorney as a result most of the criminal cases against Republicans involved in the scandal fell apart and although San Bernardino County taxpayers are out the original $102 million dollar settlement amount, untold thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, in years of legal fees and now faces several civil suits totaling millions filed by the various defendants in the case, Brown appears none the worse for wear. Brown is a seasoned political operative with a lot of negative baggage. The City of San Bernardino has entrusted the future of their community to a mayor already struggling to maintain credibility who will not depend on a political player who was recently mired in one of the greatest political scandals in the history of the inland region. Although the IE Voice/Black Voice News reached out to Mayor Valdivia and Matt Brown for comment, they did not respond in time for publication.
Header Photo: Mayor John Valdivia (center) and his new chief of staff