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During the past year, the unit has made its highest profile cases yet, with investigations of the Assessor's Office, which resulted in charges against Former supervisor and assessor Bill Postmus, former assistant assesor Jim Erwin and three others. That probe led to an investigation of the county's landmark $102 million settlement with Colonies Partners LP, which has so far resulted in additional charges against Postmus, Erwin and John "Dino" DeFazio, a High Desert businessman.

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Purging the county of corruption and restoring the public's trust was a key plank in Ramos' campaign when he first ran for office in 2002. He founded the unit in April 2003, just months after his election.

While the unit has received a total of 672 written complaints, criminal charges have been filed in just 21 cases.

interest at the municipal level, the unit appears to be gaining momentum in its effort to ferret out alleged misdeeds by government officials.

"What we're doing helps the public have greater confidence in the public leadership," Cope said.

DA's special unit focuses on public corruption

"We need a preventative mechanism in place to educate elected officials and keep them on the straight and narrow," Derry said.

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But third District Supervisor Neil Derry said he supports the work done by the Public Integrity Unit, adding that it serves an important function. But he noted the work they do is focused just on enforcement.

Bob Stern, president of the Los Angeles based Center for Governmental Studies, said the San Bernardino County Public Integrity Unit is proving to be a good idea.

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The investigation and charges have roiled the county, with defendants and critics claiming District Attorney Michael A. Ramos is abusing his office to punish political adversaries. But others have cheered investigators on.

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After getting off to a slow start at its inception in 2003, the District Attorney's Public Integrity Unit has garnered attention over the past year with major cases against high level former officials of San Bernardino County.

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yield criminal charges, and those that do are often time consuming and take months or years to complete.

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In addition to written complaints from the county's citizenry, the unit also gets referrals from police and government agencies. Some of these are relatively simple matters. Others are just misperceptions or misunderstandings.

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In its first two years, the two man unit received scores of complaints but filed just three cases. In 2005, however, Ramos began bolstering the staff, which today boasts two prosecutors, four full time investigators and one part time investigator.

But, he added, it appears in many instances that San Bernardino County's Public Integrity Unit is being used to fulfill a political agenda.

But officials at the Public Integrity Unit caution that success should not be measured in the number of criminal filings.

Erwin was initially charged with perjury for failing to properly disclose gifts he received from the Colonies developers. Maline contends such violations are commonplace among elected officials essentially bookkeeping errors and that Erwin is a political target, not a criminal.

The recent criminal cases resulted from multi year investigations involving hundreds of interviews and numerous search warrants. And prosecutors don't divulge news of their investigations unless they result in criminal charges.

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Assessor's Office under former Assessor Bill Postmus.

The Public Corruption Unit's most significant case so far culminated last month in what Attorney General Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown called the "biggest corruption scandal in San Bernardino County's history."

Rajan Maline, the attorney representing Erwin, said he believes in the public integrity unit in concept: "As a citizen of the county, you would think the Public Integrity Unit is a good idea, and certainly there is some merit to having a prosecutorial agency reviewing misconduct by public officials. There's merit to that," he said.

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At the time, the county was still recovering from years of public scandal as federal, state and local investigators targeted corruption by top county officials during the 1990s.

And while its successes have sullied the public's perception of some government institutions and officials, in the long run, the unit's work will enhance public confidence in government, said Lewis Cope, who heads up the Red Air Max 90 Mens Public Integrity Unit.

From blowing open an alleged massive county corruption scandal to targeting conflicts of Air Max 90 Blue And White

"And that's when it becomes dangerous," said Maline, who has argued that Erwin is being selectively prosecuted.

State and local prosecutors have charged former county officials with bribery and other crimes, accusing them of conspiring with developers to steal more than $100 million from taxpayers.

This week, Derry plans to introduce details of a proposed ethics commission and sunshine ordinance to ensure public officials are operating in an ethical and open manner.

"I recognize with what has been going on most recently, the public may have some concerns in terms of confidence in their local government," Cope said. "But by and large, the work we do and have done has helped the community as a whole with respect to our public leaders."

Also implicated as unnamed and uncharged co conspirators were Supervisor Paul Biane, Mark Kirk, the chief of staff to Supervisor Gary Ovitt, and two managing partners of Colonies Partners. Prosecutors say the developers paid hudreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for the supervisors' votes in favor of the settlement.

The charges come as part of an ongoing public integrity investigation that began with allegations of fraud and waste in the Nike Air Max For Women White

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"I'm always delighted when there's a Public Integrity Unit within the District Attorney's Office," said Stern. "And clearly this unit has been pretty active, working with the Attorney General's office on some of the investigations and bringing some of the prosecutions."

Four of the five San Bernardino County supervisors either did not return phone calls or declined to comment about the Public Integrity Unit.

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