San Bernardino County Corruption Probe: Supervisors' Testimony Sought

By Imran Ghori and Duane W. Gang |  Published in The Press Enterprise

San Bernardino County Supervisors Neil Derry, Josie Gonzales, Brad Mitzelfelt, and Gary Ovitt called to testify before a criminal grand jury

For the second time in three years, San Bernardino County supervisors have been asked to testify before a criminal grand jury.

Investigators attempted to serve grand jury summons to four supervisors Thursday, according to two county officials who confirmed the subpoenas on the condition they not be identified.

It’s unclear what the grand jury’s focus might be this time.

Board Chairwoman Josie Gonzales and Supervisors Gary Ovitt, Neil Derry and Brad Mitzelfelt are being summoned to testify, the sources said. Supervisor Janice Rutherford, who was elected to office in November, did not receive one, they said.

In a telephone interview Thursday evening, Derry confirmed that he received a subpoena from the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office to testify as a witness before a special grand jury. He is scheduled to appear April 14. Derry said he did not know the focus of the investigation.

Gonzales declined to comment. Mitzelfelt could not be reached for comment. Burt Southard, a spokesman for Ovitt, said Ovitt was not at the County Government Center in downtown San Bernardino on Thursday and did not receive a summons. Rutherford said she was not aware of subpoenas being issued.

District attorney spokeswoman Susan Mickey said her office does not comment on the activities of the grand jury or on ongoing investigations.

County spokesman David Wert said he could not confirm if investigators were at the county building.

“If anything like that had occurred, it would be inappropriate for the county to comment or disclose information on what would be the details of another agency’s investigation,” he said.

In September 2009, the district attorney’s office served supervisors with subpoenas as part of their corruption investigations.

The district attorney’s office has multiple ongoing investigations into county actions.

District attorney’s investigators and the FBI served a search warrant in November at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton. Officials have not announced any further developments in that case.

The district attorney’s office is also investigating possible political corruption in the county’s plan to find a developer for 1,200 acres of surplus county flood-control land in Rancho Cucamonga. The county tabled those negotiations in 2009 after the investigation began.

In 2009, supervisors were summoned by a grand jury to testify about the Rancho Cucamonga property deal and about a $102 million settlement with Colonies Partners.

On Monday, the district attorney’s office reached a deal with former Assessor and Supervisor Bill Postmus, who pleaded guilty to a conflict of interest and accepting bribes in the Colonies case.

Colonies has denied any wrongdoing and defended the November 2006 settlement as fair.

Former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin, who acted as a consultant to Colonies at the time, continues to face charges of bribery and conspiracy in the case, and court documents list five other unnamed and unindicted co-conspirators.

Those John Does have been identified as Jeff Burum and Dan Richards, co-managing members of Colonies Partners; former Supervisor Paul Biane; Mark Kirk, former chief of staff to Ovitt; and Patrick O’Reilly, a media consultant to Colonies.

None has been charged and all have denied wrongdoing.


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