The release of previously confidential documents in a criminal matter against Colonies partner Jeff Burum, former San Bernardino County Second District Supervisor Paul Biane, former Board of Supervisors Chief of Staff Mark Kirk, and former Board of Supervisors Chief of Staff Jim Erwin shows that even after being indicted by the Grand Jury, the defendants continued a pattern of intimidation and harassment against former First District Supervisor Bill Postmus, a key prosecution witness. The case involves a $102 million settlement between the county and Colonies Partners that the district attorney and attorney general say was tainted by bribes, extortion and blackmail.
Erwin, who prior to serving as chief of staff to then-Supervisor Neil Derry, was president of the San Bernardino County Safety Employees’ Benefit Association, the most powerful union in the county and the one that represents sheriff’s deputies and other investigators. Erwin was credited with gaining 3 percent at 50 for sworn personnel, a benefit now tainted by revelations he used personal information to blackmail members of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to secure their vote.
During negotiations for both the union contract and the Colonies settlement, Erwin is said to have threatened Biane and Postmus with exposing their lifestyle choices and substance abuse issues in order to obtain the needed three votes. But the threats did not stop there.
The most recent revelation is that attorneys for one or more of the four defendants hired the private investigative firm of Thomas Dale & Associates (TDA) to follow Postmus and his family and friends (including this writer). They also had his cell phone hacked to obtain his phone records.
Stephen Larson, attorney for Burum, adamantly denies that his firm authorized any illegal activity such as the phone hacking. However, a fax that was made public last week from an employee at TDA named “Ellie” which was sent to a small investigative firm in Alabama reads:
Hi Theresa, we need a cell locate on William J. Postmus . . . also need most recent months (sic) calls. Thank you, Ellie.
Cell phone records are confidential unless secured by warrant or subpoena, which the defense did not have in this case. Instead their private investigators used Theresa Speer of Lookout Resources. Speer claims her clients do not know how she obtains the information. However, without a court document, the only way to get them other than the owner giving them up is to hack into the records, a crime at both the federal and state level.
TDA is one of the largest private investigative firms in the world. It is unlikely a small firm in Alabama would have more knowledge than TDA of how to go about obtaining cell phone records. Clearly, they were attempting to obtain records they knew they were not entitled to without a court order but wanted anyway.
The investigation is ongoing. Criminal charges may be filed against those involved in the phone hacking. Either way though, Postmus has civil remedies available to him, which he is considering at this time.
Depending on the evidence available, it may or may not be possible to trace the authorization to hack his records back to the defense team or one or more of the defendants. However, TDA appears to have been acting as their agent when they authorized the hacking, and if that can be shown, the defendants could be held civilly liable for the actions.