Investigation Report Is Private, Board Says

Times Staff Writer

San Bernardino County supervisors on Tuesday blocked the release of an investigative report detailing conflict-of-interest allegations involving the county's $31-million purchase of a privately run jail in the Mojave Desert.

The investigation, completed in October by an outside special counsel, examined whether former Assemblyman Brett Granlund, now a lobbyist for the county in Sacramento, unduly swayed top county officials to buy a jail in Adelanto while he was working for the jail's owner.

Last month, the county released a four-page summary of the report, concluding that although Granlund had spoken to the county's top administrator, Mark Uffer, and Sheriff Gary Penrod about the jail, nothing criminal had occurred.

Granlund works for Platinum Advisors LLC, whose contract with the county requires potential conflicts to be disclosed in writing. County officials said they were not notified of Granlund's work for the jail's owner, Terry Moreland, and his companies.

"We just need to tell the whole story," said Supervisor Dennis Hansberger, whose request to release the entire investigative report was rejected Tuesday in a 4-1 vote. "I don't think we made a bad decision; I think we made the decision badly."

Other supervisors, however, said the report's contents were confidential and could expose the county to lawsuits. They added that it would be improper to release the report while the district attorney's office was reviewing the matter.

And Supervisor Josie Gonzales said the matter had distracted officials from dealing with more pressing issues. "I am not willing to continue to beat this dead horse," she said.

"This is something we need to put behind us and move forward with the public's business," said Chairman Bill Postmus, who recently announced his candidacy for county assessor.

Postmus dismissed the issue as a product of "a feud between two friends that ended up going bad." Postmus was referring to allegations that triggered the inquiry: a land deal involving Granlund and Hansberger's top aide, Jim Foster.

Foster was accused this summer of violating ethics rules by buying surplus county land in Redlands by using Granlund, a friend of his, as an intermediary. The investigation was expanded to include all transactions involving surplus county land during the last five years, and the Adelanto jail purchase. Foster resigned in September.

The investigation was another blow to a county that weathered a corruption scandal in the mid-1990s in which a host of political players were implicated in bribery and kickback schemes.

Although the county has taken steps to promote open government -- most recently by directing staff to research the possibility of putting campaign finance and county contractor information online -- Tuesday's vote is the latest spat among supervisors about which documents should be made public.

In the summer, all five supervisors promised to take a polygraph test to show that they didn't leak a confidential memo about settlement talks with a developer suing the county.

The board also reiterated its stance that members must vote to release internal memos, in response to a second memo that was leaked to local newspapers.

The county has recently denied The Times' public records requests for the Foster land deal findings and the jail report, which totals more than 100 pages.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World