Certainly all accused persons are innocent until found guilty. But as the Colonies scandal investigation continues and additional information comes to light, one thing seems certain. Threats and extortion appear to be a given. And that leads us to the question, did Jeff Burum and the Colonies partners order it or give their tacit approval or were they completely in the dark?
Two aspects of the investigation lead us to ask these questions. First, the revelation that Burum offered prostitutes more than once to officials makes us wonder if it was simply a situation where he wanted to share the wealth or, rather, a chance to have something to hold over their heads and use for blackmail purposes in the future.
Second, as more individuals claim incidents of blackmail, threats and extortion by Jim Erwin, we wonder if Erwin acted on his own to prove his worth to Burum or if Burum ordered it or simply went along. Some claim Erwin has threatened Burum as well. We can only guess what Erwin may have on Burum to garner the support he seems to have.
The most recent revelation of extortion is the most scathing and serious. We now know that Erwin’s alleged threats and extortion in the Colonies scandal are not the first in which he is accused of such activity. He is also accused by at least one victim of allegedly making similar threats when he was the president of the Safety Employees Benefit Association (SEBA). Those threats were made during contract negotiations to obtain the 3 percent at 50 retirement benefit for safety (deputy sheriff’s and district attorney investigators) employees.
Erwin specifically threatened to reveal to the public that one or more members of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors is homosexual or bisexual and/or about illicit drug use if they did not vote in favor of giving the more lucrative retirement benefit to his union members. The board relented and voted in favor of Erwin and the union despite the very high price tag.
The Colonies scandal cost taxpayers a $102 million settlement along with many more costs during the process. However, the 3 percent at 50 retirement benefit far exceeds $102 million. The costs are so great they are almost incalculable. And, now the retirement system is in trouble with indebtedness amounting to $1000 for every man, women and child in San Bernardino County.
Since the district attorney’s office has its own definition of “statute of limitations,” we also have to wonder why charges have not been filed in the SEBA case. Of course, that answer may be self-evident. On the other hand, we may never know what Burum or the remaining Colonies partners really knew or ordered Erwin to accomplish.