Jeff Burum Resumes Leadership of Affordable Housing Nonprofit National CORE

By RICHARD K. DE ATLEY | | The Press-Enterprise
PUBLISHED: November 3, 2017 at 6:13 pm | UPDATED: November 4, 2017 at 1:42 am

Barely two months after his acquittal in the Colonies bribery case, developer Jeff Burum stood in front of a standing ovation crowd Thursday night at the Fairplex Conference Center stage in Pomona to resume leadership of the affordable housing non-profit he co-founded 25 years ago.

Burum voluntarily stepped down eight years ago as chairman of the board of National Community Renaissance and its sister non-profit charitable organization Hope Through Housing Foundation —  during the years the Colonies case coursed through the courts after a 2011 indictment.

He was returned to the chairmanship of both organizations this week and was greeted by a crowd of about 850 people gathered at a gala celebrating the creation of National Community Renaissance, also called National CORE, by Burum and Andrew Wright a quarter-century ago.

“I’m so proud to be back,” he said.

National CORE is a non-profit developer for affordable housing projects. Hope Through Housing Foundation was created in 1998 as a charitable organization to help people in affordable housing with education programs such as on-site preschools, as well as senior health and debt reduction.

The gala was to benefit Hope Through Housing Foundation.

“My life is back,” Burum said in an interview shortly after stepping off the stage at Sheraton Fairplex Conference Center in Pomona, where his appearance included a surprise presentation by Burum and wife Kellie’s two children.

“This was an integral part of my life for the last 25-30 years,” he said of the affordable housing work. It’s who I was. People don’t know that. But I ran this, I loved it … it’s what I did to make me feel good.

“And to have that missing, as part of you, and when the FBI raids it to make it look somehow like what you did here was corrupt — and I have to stay away until it’s over — it’s one of the unjust unfairnesses that happened. But tonight, it’s behind me. It’s behind me. My life is ahead.

“My life is now about how many more people we can help in the next 25 years.”

Jurors acquitted Burum, along with former San Bernardino County Supervisor Paul Biane and Mark Kirk, the chief of staff for former Supervisor Gary Ovitt on Aug. 28.

At least 10 of the jurors attended the fundraising dinner Thursday. The group has kept in touch with each other and the former defendants on social media and were invited to the gala.

“When I came into the trial as a juror, I knew nothing about any of the defendants,” said former panelist Daniel Morris, 32, of Redlands. “The only thing I knew that they told me at the trial was that Jeff Burum was a developer. I didn’t know anything (else) that he was involved in.”

Learning after the trial of Burum’s involvement in the non-profit affordable housing organizations “just makes me happier with my decision,” Morris said. “To see what Jeff does for the community, I think he is an awesome guy.”

“I never doubted my decision. There was absolutely no evidence,” Morris said of the not-guilty verdicts he and the panel delivered for all three defendants after hearing eight months of testimony.

“I think he’s a very good person,” juror Donald Platten, of Cedar Pines Park near the San Bernardino Mountains community of Crestline, said Thursday evening. Platten will be 55 later this month.

Burum’s tough persona became part of the trial testimony, but Platten said of the developer, “You have to have that type of personality when you are in that type of business. When you are that high up the ladder, you have to be the boss.”

The acquitted trio had been indicted on various bribery and conflict of interest charges in connection with a $102 million settlement supervisors approved by the board of supervisors in 2006. The vote ended a lawsuit with developer Colonies Partners LLP over storm drain construction issues on land Colonies had developed in Upland. Burum is a co-managing partner of Colonies.

A fourth defendant, former San Bernardino County Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin, had a separate jury because some of the charges he faced were unrelated to the bribery allegations. Erwin’s case was dismissedafter his panel declared it was deadlocked on all charges.

The gala fundraiser Thursday celebrated 25 years of National CORE, but the charity event is held annually, said Steve PonTell, president and chief executive officer of the organization.

“Most businesses don’t last, let alone grow, over 25 years,” PonTell said. National CORE says it has helped 250,000 people over that time and overseen development of 9,000 housing units in California, Arkansas, Texas and Florida, although PonTell said 80 percent of the organization’s portfolio is in California.

“Developing affordable housing is probably the most complicated development there is,” PonTell said. “Normal development is hard — people oppose it. Affordable housing is harder because people don’t want ‘those people’ living in their neighborhood.”

Burum said he was looking forward to using his acumen in housing development again as California faces a housing crisis.

“I was in battle mode,” Burum said of the time he faced charges and was tried. “It was about me and the settlement, what I said and what I didn’t say. It was crazy. It was a surreal world I lived in, and that surrealness is gone.”

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