Postmus follows long line

10:00 PM PST on Sunday, January 18, 2009

San Bernardino County got off to a rocky political start.

So maybe it's no wonder we find ourselves looking at a long line of officials who have brought, if not disgrace, certainly the continuance of a questionable tradition, upon us in recent years.

Bill "Poster Boy" Postmus is just the latest to step to the fore.

The former county supervisor and current county assessor joins the ranks of such familiar names as Jerry Eaves, Robert Hlawek and Harry Mays.

A little less familiar may be Frank Noyes.

Noyes never actually made it into political life, but he came close. It seems a problem with substance abuse, in this case alcohol, brought an early downfall.

The year was 1855. The county was just two years old. And we all know how terrible that age can be.

The previous state election had, believe it or not, brought the Know-nothings to power -- proving that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Know-nothings actually was the nickname of the American Party, which had outpolled both the Democrats and Republicans. Noyes apparently was happy to align himself with the party of power, for a price.

It seems that Mormon leader Jefferson Hunt, the county's only state representative, wasn't keen to retain his seat in the coming election. Noyes, a recent Mormon convert, had made a name for himself in the San Bernardino community and was being positioned as a successor.

This was at a time when elections consisted of the Mormon leaders issuing a slate of uncontested candidates and allowing the populace to approve it.

Noyes even had traveled to Sacramento to cement a secret deal.

On a return layover in Los Angeles, he reportedly drank himself into a very un-Mormon-like state and boasted that the Know-nothings were paying church leaders in San Bernardino $7,000 to elect him to the Legislature. He, in turn, would vote with the Know-nothings.

Noyes never returned to San Bernardino after his drunken confession. He dropped from sight, reportedly devoting his career to alcohol and living on the streets of Los Angeles.

It's hard to know where Postmus will end up at this point. But things don't look good.

The assessor has been under an ever-darkening cloud of suspicion since August 2007, when prosecutors began looking into questionable campaign activities connected to his office. In June, those offices were searched and his right-hand man was arrested. Shortly after that, Postmus took an unexplained medical leave of nearly 12 weeks amid rampant rumors.

On Jan. 6, he addressed the Board of Supervisors, claiming a "successful struggle" against a "previous battle with substance abuse."

Postmus may have a different idea of success than the rest of us.

On Thursday, officials searched his Rancho Cucamonga apartment and reportedly found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.

When Postmus came to the Board of Supervisors as a fast-rising Republican star in 2000, his desert district was plagued with meth lab activity.

Can you blame a guy for trying to represent his constituency?

In 2001, when Supervisor Jerry Eaves was charged with accepting bribes, Postmus joined calls for his resignation, saying, "I think it's time for Mr. Eaves to consider that his presence on the board harms all of San Bernardino."

It's hard to imagine what good Postmus can do at this point. Like Noyes, he might do best to simply fade away.

Reach Mark Muckenfuss at 951-368-9595 or mmuckenfuss@PE.com

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