After years of scandal that includes the arrests of many high-ranking officials and the businessmen that support them, San Bernardino County is known as “California’s Most Corrupt County.” If one corruption figure’s friends have their way, it won’t lose its moniker anytime soon. They are helping to fund a campaign to kick the current District Attorney to the curb and replace him with a district attorney more to their liking.
Grover Merritt is the attorney of choice of the corruption figures. He is a deputy district attorney in the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office and not a fan of his boss, District Attorney Mike Ramos. He was formerly the head of the union representing deputy district attorneys and once sued his boss for unlawful termination. Despite working for Ramos, he is a bitter rival who is seeking the top spot.
Ramos, along with the Attorney General Kamala Harris, are prosecuting Jeff Burum, Jim Erwin, Paul Biane and Mark Kirk in what former-Attorney General Jerry Brown said was the “biggest corruption scandal in San Bernardino County history, possibly in California.”
Burum is one of the Colonies partners on the receiving end of a $102 million settlement between the partners and the county of San Bernardino. It is a settlement Harris and Ramos say was tainted by extortion and bribery. Burum is accused of bribing public officials, including co-defendants Erwin, Biane and Kirk, to obtain the settlement for the Colonies partners.
Burum and his business partner, Mark Davidson, own 2nd Avenue Saloon and Grub House in Upland. Davidson is also the Agent for Service of Process for Upland Reality Equities V, Inc. So imagine the surprise when Davidson’s business showed up on a Fair Political Practices Commission report as having donated $4,000 to the opponent of the District Attorney who is prosecuting his business partner, Jeff Burum.
Davidson is not the only friend of Burum attempting to take out the current district attorney. In a story written by reporter Joe Nelson, dated Aug. 19, 2011, in the San Jose Mercury News, Burum is pictured talking with “friend Dr. Paul Olivera” after leaving a court appearance. A second donation to Merritt was made by the Paul and Diane Olivera Family Trust in the amount of $2,000.
According to records at the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voter’s office, the donations were made on March 6, 2014, one day before the fees for filing and candidate statements had to be deposited. Potential donors say they were contacted by campaign fundraiser Nan Ryder last week because Merritt did not have enough money for the candidate statement. Burum’s friends came through at the last moment with $6,000.
Rumors have surrounded the Merritt campaign for weeks. He hired political consultant Chris Jones but has not paid him. Workers say they have been told they will be paid after the campaign is over so as to not draw attention to campaign contributors.
Jones, himself, has several connections to county corruption. He was the consultant for Burum co-conspirator Paul Biane. He worked on a variety of campaign projects with a second co-conspirator, Jim Erwin, who is thought to be taking a behind-the-scenes role in Merritt’s campaign. Jones also was consultant to several city of San Bernardino candidates who have been involved in scandal.