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Don’t Launch A Probe Based On Rumors, Gossip

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Josie Gonzales, San Bernardino County Supervior, 5th District

It’s disappointing to say the least to see a San Bernardino County Supervisor team up with a criminal defendant in a shameless attempt to discredit and punish the district attorney for prosecuting corruption. But that’s exactly what Supervisor Neil Derry did last week when he helped out his disgraced ex-chief of staff, Jim Erwin, by calling for the county to launch an investigation of DA Mike Ramos based solely on rumors and gossip.

Less than a week after a local newspaper refused to publish a story focusing on the gossip because it couldn’t find reliable evidence, Derry used the bully pulpit of his office to call for a county investigation of Ramos, forcing the media to cover the story and publish the rumors.

It looks too much like Derry did nothing more than help Erwin carry out a vendetta against the man trying to bring him to justice.

The timing is suspicious and raises too many questions, considering the rumors about Ramos center on alleged events that occurred several years ago.

Derry has argued the Board of Supervisors’ reluctance to embark upon an investigation of Ramos is part of an imaginary pattern by the county of looking the other way when officials are suspected of wrongdoing.

PROOF ISN’T THERE

The fact is that the county has consistently proven that it will conduct and investigation when there is credible evidence to suggest an investigation is warranted. The county filed suit in 2000 in relation to the James Hlawek scandal. The county conducted an investigation in 2005 concerning a questionable land deal and the purchase of a jail. And the county most recently took swift and responsible action in response to the evidence of misconduct in the office of ex-assessor Bill Postmus, who now faces multiple felony charges ranging from grand theft to drug possession. There is no credible evidence to suggest an investigation of the DA is warranted at this time. An account contained in a tabloid based solely on un-named sources, and subsequent posting on blogs, amount to gossip and do not constitute credible evidence. At this point there is nothing to even suggest that the DA misused county resources or did anything else to compromise the county or his office. If there were, the county would not hesitate to launch an investigation. If Derry has such evidence, he should present it to the board in a public meeting, rather than simply issue a news release.

ENOUGH MEDDLING

I am certain that if credible evidence surfaces that the rumors about the DA may be true, some will take the opportunity to blame the county for not acting sooner. However, I will not regret refraining from an irresponsible investigation based solely on gossip, especially when such an investigation could very well disrupt the prosecution of Erwin and the others involved in the Postmus scandal.

Last year, Derry ran a commendable campaign based on a call for reform and ethics. Rather than continuing to carry water for Erwin, Derry should allow the justice system to do its job free from political interference.

And as a Board of Supervisors, the five of us should be united in our stance against corruption. It confuses the public and slows our progress when we have one board member, Derry, calling for ethics one day, and attempting to thwart the prosecution of corruption the next.

I understand the public’s frustration. Justice can be a slow and confusing process, especially when wrongdoers throw up smoke screens. But I am confident that when all is said and done, the truth will be known and those who have cheated the public will be held accountable. Josie Gonzales is vice chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.

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