Derry’s controversial team—continued

See also:

Derry buys more police protection

Another Nazi Pig Comes to Town: San Bernardino County supervisor hires controversial activist

Last week, The Alpenhorn News revealed that Third District Supervisor Neil Derry had appointed Wanda Nowicki to his staff as an administrative analyst, even though her background check had revealed a criminal history.

At the time, the fact that Nowicki had no special background to qualify for the position raised skepticism. Revelations regarding her criminal background were further exacerbated when documents obtained by The Alpenhorn News revealed that Jim Erwin, Derry’s chief of staff at the time of Nowicki’s appointment, had advised the Director of Human Resources not to share or disclose the contents and findings of her criminal background check to anyone.

Information about Nowicki’s criminal background once again called into question many of Derry’s choices to fill key staff positions. It began when he named Erwin as his chief of staff. He made this choice despite Erwin’s reputation within the county as a polarizing and controversial figure.

Erwin is infamous for his alleged 2004 affair with ex-county labor negotiator Elizabeth Sanchez who lost her job when she admitted to being romantically involved with Erwin, who at the time was the leader and chief negotiator for the San Bernardino County Safety Employees Benefit Association (SEBA). The affair is alleged to have occurred at the same time the two negotiated from opposite sides, a new labor contract between SEBA and the county.

Sanchez was promoted to the position of director of human resources. However, rumors about the affair were well known. When initially confronted about it by the county’s chief administrative officer, she denied it but ultimately admitted to the relationship a short time later and was asked to resign. There was no apparent consequence for Erwin’s involvement.

Observers remain skeptical of a subsequent county investigation that claimed the Erwin/Sanchez relationship had no impact on the contract negotiations. Also, more recently, their names both appeared in court documents related to the $102 million Colonies scandal.

Erwin’s reputation was called into question again in a separate SEBA incident. SEBA suspended Erwin’s control of the union’s finances after he shepherded a bad investment in an unsound bank stock that resulted in significant losses for the union. Some reports indicate that the losses may have exceeded two million dollars. Although later, some experts blamed the loss on a normal downward business cycle, the controversy may have caused Erwin to be deprived of a potential appointment in 2005 to the position of county investment officer.

Erwin’s position with SEBA raised more controversy when Derry appointed him chief of staff in 2008—some saw it as a quid pro quo. SEBA had provided significant financial support to Derry’s campaign. At the time, few noticed that SEBA’s Political Action Committee (PAC) had received over a quarter of a million dollars in contributions from Jeffrey Burum’s Colonies Partners, even as the SEBA PAC donated nearly $400 thousand dollars to Derry’s campaign—a significant part of his campaign coffers at the time. This was in addition to the nearly $20,000 that Burum contributed directly to Derry’s campaign effort.

Next week, The Alpenhorn News will explore the history of another controversial Derry staff member.

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