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Santa Barbara city leaders release cannabis fact sheet in response to criticisms made in magazine report against police spokesman


SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara's City Administrator Paul Casey, City Attorney Ariel Calonne and Police Chief Bernard Melekian released a joint statement and fact sheet on Thursday detailing their response to the criticisms shared in a Los Angeles Magazine report regarding police spokesman Anthony Wagner.

Casey spoke with NewsChannel 3 on Tuesday after Wagner was placed on paid leave so a third-party investigation could take place into the claims against him.

During the interview, Casey said he had confidence the investigation would be thorough. He also addressed multiple questions raised by the critical magazine article including why former police chief Lori Luhnow removed one officer position to make space for Wagner, who is not a sworn officer, and how the city’s marijuana licensing process takes place.

The city leaders' most recent statements can be read below:

Since the City began developing commercial cannabis regulations in 2016, the Santa Barbara City Council, City Administrator Paul Casey and City Attorney Ariel Calonne have been committed to ensuring an open and fair process for selecting the best cannabis businesses.  The City Council directed a competitive business selection process in order to bring the best companies to Santa Barbara.  The integrity of that process was questioned by Los Angeles Magazine, apparently without the benefit of even minimal local investigation.

City Administrator Paul Casey said, “Despite the known errors and misstatements in the article, the City has and will take all appropriate action in response to factual allegations of corruption. We take these allegations seriously and will ensure that every issue raised is addressed.”

Police Chief Bernard Melekian added, “We are close to retaining a firm to conduct the investigation I launched on Monday March 15 when I placed Anthony Wagner on administrative leave.  Mr. Wagner has been extremely cooperative, and looks forward to an opportunity to clear his name.   Nevertheless, the article raised some potentially new information concerning Mr. Wagner’s relationship with two people from San Diego who allegedly had connections with Golden State Greens.”

The city then shared a Cannabis Regulation Fact Sheet that explained Anthony Wagner was just one of five city staff to evaluate the cannabis permit application under question.

The other staff included a fire inspector, a capital projects supervisor, the deputy finance director, and assistant city attorney.

The city said its cannabis rules do allow a permit to change hands as long as the new company has met all the standards set for the original business.

The city pointed out that the process is public and that they won a lawsuit about it last year.

You can read their full fact sheet here.

Since going on leave, Wagner has said he fully supports and welcomes the investigation saying he expects it will clear his name.

EDITORS NOTE: On Friday February 25, 2022, Los Angeles Magazine removed articles referenced in this story. In an unsigned email, the following note was sent to the News Channel: “Articles posted by your organization will no longer redirect the user to the articles because the articles have been removed from the Los Angeles Magazine website,”  This updated story reflects the current status of a legal complaint filed against the magazine by former Santa Barbara Police Spokesman Anthony Wagner.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
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