San Bernardino, CA
After years of media attention to jaw-dropping and salacious allegations; endless hours of legal bickering; and an exhaustive stretch of appeals, the infamous Colonies Corruption case—the biggest public bribery scandal in San Bernardino County history—was scheduled to begin this week.
The case involved a Rancho Cucamonga developer, Jeff Burum and his real estate investor group, Colonies Partners, LP. Burum is alleged to have paid $400,000 in bribes to former top officials in San Bernardino County in exchange for their vote of approval to settle an ongoing lawsuit over flood control improvements in Burum’s favor.
The flood control improvements were warranted at the Colonies’ residential and commercial development in Upland. The development, Colonies at San Antonio and Colonies Crossroads, involved 434-acres.
After nearly five years of negotiations, in November 2006, San Bernardino County reached a $102 million dollar settlement in the favor of Burum and Colonies LP that appeared against the interests of tax payers in San Bernardino County.
In May 2011, Burum and four top-ranking, former San Bernardino County officials were accused of several felonies in relation to the $102 million settlement. The charges were based on allegations of bribery in addition to the alleged misappropriation of public funds.
According to court documents, Burum purportedly paid $400,000 in bribes to the former county officials in exchange for their vote in favor of Burum and Colonies, LP in the $102 million settlement.
County officials accused in the case include former San Bernardino County Supervisor Paul Biane; former San Bernardino Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin; and Mark Kirk, former Chief of Staff for former San Bernardino County Supervisor Gary Ovitt.
Two other former county officials were also implicated in the corruption, former San Bernardino County Supervisor and former San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus and former Assistant Assessor Adam Aleman. Both pled guilty to charges in this case and another corruption case associated with the County Assessor’s Office. Both men have agreed to testify against the other officials accused in this case.
The trial is expected to last at least six months.