Santa Barbara’s Interim Police Chief Bernard Melekian announced he’s contracted with a firm that specializes in investigating public safety agencies to look into conflict-of-interest allegations in an article published by Los Angeles magazine against Anthony Wagner, the department’s public information officer and community relations advisor.
The article alleged that Wagner had been a business partner with one of the principals of a San Diego–based cannabis dispensary company, Golden State Greens, that sought and received one of the three cannabis dispensary permits issued by the City of Santa Barbara two years ago. Wagner was one of five high-ranking city employees charged with evaluating the applications submitted by individuals and companies competing for the coveted permits.
The article, written by freelance reporter, former screenwriter, and until recently Santa Barbara resident Mitchell Kriegman alleged that cannabis entrepreneur Micah Anderson had been a principal with Golden State Greens when it successfully sought the city’s permit. Anderson had been business partners with Wagner when the two lived in San Diego and operated a consulting firm together specializing in cannabis permitting. Wagner moved to Santa Barbara in 2017 at the instigation of former Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow, who hired him to be her right-hand man on issues relating to cannabis and alcohol regulations as well as her spokesperson and general advisor.
The article, it turned out, was factually incorrect and the conflict-of-interest it alleged did not exist. Anderson, records show, was not involved with Golden State Greens and its efforts to secure a dispensary in Santa Barbara. Los Angeles magazine has since issued a retraction, which reads: “A prior version of this story incorrectly identified Micah Anderson as one of the owners that applied for a cannabis dispensary license for Golden State Greens in Santa Barbara. The information we have