Polygraph tests urged after leak

12:31 AM PDT on Wednesday, June 22, 2005

San Bernardino County Supervisor Paul Biane challenged his colleagues Tuesday to take a lie-detector test to determine who was responsible for leaking a memo about settlement talks with a real estate developer.

Calling it a serious breach of confidence, Biane said all five supervisors, their staffs and the county counsel's office should submit to polygraph tests.

"This kind of breach puts the taxpayers' money at risk," he said.

But while the challenge was issued to all of his colleagues, Biane aimed his comments at Supervisor Dennis Hansberger, whom Biane said he suspects of leaking the document.

Last week, Biane was quoted as saying Hansberger should not be a supervisor and deserved to go to jail -- statements he said he still stands behind.

"If I'm wrong, he deserves a retraction," Biane said Tuesday. " At this point, I still believe that to be the truth."

According to the confidential memo obtained by The Press-Enterprise, Biane and board Chairman Bill Postmus on March 25 personally tried to negotiate a settlement with the principals of Colonies Partners, developers of a 434-acre commercial and housing project in Upland, after both sides sent their attorneys out of the room.

About an hour later, they struck a tentative agreement that would have had the county pay Colonies more than $77 million, the memo said. A formal settlement has not been reached.

Last week, Postmus asked District Attorney Mike Ramos to investigate the leak.

Hansberger, who denies leaking the document, said Biane is attempting to distract attention from his own behavior in the settlement talks.

"It strikes me as a desperate act by somebody who feels very threatened," he said.

Hansberger has questioned the appropriateness of Biane and Postmus holding private settlement talks with the developer. He said the district attorney's office also should look into whether any discussions were held outside closed session, in violation of state law.

Although he dismissed lie-detector tests as proving nothing, Hansberger said he would agree to take a test if the investigation was expanded to explore those questions.

Supervisors Postmus, Gary Ovitt and Josie Gonzales all said they would take the tests if asked.

Biane said he would leave it up to the district attorney's investigator whether to expand the investigation.

"My answer to that is I'll answer any question posed to me by the district attorney's office," he said.

Ramos has said that he asked for the investigation to be made a priority and hoped to have some answers by the Fourth of July weekend.

District attorney' spokeswoman Susan Mickey said a decision on requesting polygraph tests would be made by the investigator. She said she could not comment on the investigation and whether polygraph tests would be sought. Mickey said lie-detector tests are not admissible in court.

Reach Imran Ghori at (909) 806-3061 or ighori@pe.com

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