Articles Posted in Public Records

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Postmus gives public the mushroom treatment

Some government officials view members of the public as mushrooms, to be kept in the dark and covered with manure.

San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus is surely one of those officials. Postmus waged a pitched battle, at county expense, last year to resist turning over calendars and e-mails from his time on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors in 2006. Now, in a stunning development, his aide Adam Aleman has been criminally charged with destruction of public records. The District Attorney’s office says Aleman deep-sixed the hard-drive of a laptop computer which belonged to his boss Postmus when Postmus was on the Board of Supervisors. Postmus has not been charged with a crime.

Aleman’s alleged criminality isn’t the only questionable conduct to take place on Postmus’ watch. The same day Aleman was arrested, June 30, the county Grand Jury issued a scathing report saying that the Assessor’s office had been widely used for political purposes, with staffers engaging in Republican party activities at county expense.

The Grand Jury found that when Postmus took office in January 2007 he hired an “executive support staff” which “lacked experience or training directly associated with assessor work.” Most of the “executive support staff” had been with Postmus when he was on the Board of Supervisors and/or was Republican Central Committee Chairman. While dedicated career employees who’d been on the job before Postmus was elected did the day-to-day work, Postmus’ people did “public image” work and “engaged in political activities for various national, state, and local political candidates during normal working hours.” In other words, Bill Postmus harnessed your tax dollars to the service of his own large political ambitions, whether you liked it or not. That’s called taxation without representation, or maybe even Tammany Hall corruption.
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Playing Hide and Seek With Public Records

It’s not unusual for newspapers, or lawyers in Public Records Act or Freedom of Information Act cases, to accuse the government of trying to “hide” things. Now a San Bernardino County case has revealed what may be a criminal attempt at hiding public records, just in time for a Fourth of July reminder about the importance of access to information about government.

San Bernardino County officials June 30 arrested Adam Aleman, a 25-year-old assistant assessor in that county. Aleman was charged with six felony counts – among them a count for destruction of public records. That count alleges that he destroyed the hard drive of a laptop computer that had been issued by the county to Assessor Bill Postmus during Postmus’ tenure on the Board of Supervisors.

The link to Postmus is significant. He was the central figure in a Public Records Act lawsuit brought by the California First Amendment Coalition and the San Bernardino Sun claiming that Postmus should have disclosed calendars and e-mails relating to a two-week period in the summer of 2006 when fires raged in San Bernardino County and Postmus, then the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, was mysteriously absent.

A San Bernardino County judge ordered a few calendar entries and e-mails released but upheld the county’s decision to withhold many calendar entries based upon the county’s claim of “deliberative process.” But during the case, the judge ordered the county to prepare a “privilege log,” an inventory of withheld records and the county’s reasons for withholding them. The log revealed a gap in the summer of 2006 during which Postmus seemed to have been cut off from e-mail. His spokesmen offered conflicting accounts about where Postmus was and whether he had email access.

The DA’s office has not linked Aleman’s indictment to the mysterious events surrounding Postmus (and Postmus himself has not been charged with any crime). However, the hard drive may have been destroyed in June or July of 2006 – the same summer Postmus was absent during the raging fires in his home county.
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