Assistant AG Schons to retire, take new job

Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/06/2011 07:11:55 PM PDT

Senior state Assistant Attorney General Gary Schons will retire at the end of the month and will begin a new job at the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, officials from both offices said.

San Bernardino County Assistant District Attorney Jim Hackleman also is retiring. His last day is Friday.

Schons and Hackleman oversaw the prosecution of Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum and three former county officials in a sweeping corruption scandal tied to a $102 million legal settlement between the county and Burum’s development consortium, Colonies Partners LP. In a joint prosecution, the District Attorney’s and state Attorney General’s offices allege the settlement was tainted by bribery and extortion.

Burum and the other three defendants – former county Supervisor Paul Biane, former assistant assessor Jim Erwin and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt, deny any wrongdoing.

On Nov. 18, Schons will begin his new job as Senior Advisor of Law and Policy in the appellate division of the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

“Gary will be an incredible asset to the office of the District Attorney and will greatly contribute to the outstanding statewide reputation of our Appellate Division,” San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said in an e-mail to her staff on Sept. 15.

Dumanis noted in her e-mail that Schons is one of the premiere experts in the area of appellate law, having headed the appeals, writs and trials section of the Attorney General’s criminal division in San Diego.

During his 35-year career at the Attorney General’s Office, Schons tried felony cases in the state and federal courts and argued cases in the state Supreme Court, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and in appellate courts throughout the state.

Schons’ replacement has yet to be announced.

At the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, Supervising Deputy District Attorney Michael Fermin will replace Hackleman as Assistant District Attorney, but the supervisory function of the office’s Public Integrity Unit, which Hackleman oversaw, will be taken over by Assistant District Attorney Dennis Christy, said Chris Lee, office spokesman.

Schons could not be reached for comment.

Neither Lee nor officials from the Attorney General’s Office would comment on what impact, if any, the departures of Shons and Hackleman will have on the state’s Colonies corruption case.

Prosecutors allege the landmark settlement on Nov. 28, 2006, which ended nearly five years of heated legal battle over who was responsible for paying for flood control improvements at the developer’s 434-acre residential and commercial development in Upland, was the result of bribery and extortion.

A separate FBI/IRS investigation is now under way in connection with the controversial settlement.

Both Burum and the county maintain that the settlement was fair and potentially saved taxpayers upward of more than $300 million, a damages estimate Burum’s attorneys presented to the county during litigation. Burum’s attorneys argued that the county stood to lose that much had it chosen to proceed forth with a trial and lose.

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