Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption
By edhat staff
Santa Barbara residents are reeling from a new investigative article exposing potential corruption, or at least, deeply concerning behavior from city officials.
Los Angeles Magazine published an article Friday by Mitchell Kriegman focused on one city employee who held a variety of titles raising many eyebrows.
The employee in question is Anthony Wagner. He arrived in 2017 from San Diego as the Public Information Officer (PIO) for the Santa Barbara Police Department Public at the behest of former Police Chief and fellow San Diegoan Lori Luhnow.
Wagner has been accused of flashing a badge and bullying an Eastside business owner, even though Wagner is not a sworn police officer.
Despite complaints, in a short amount of time Wagner obtained other coveted positions such as PIO to Mayor Cathy Murrillo and the point person who awarded cannabis dispensary licenses for the city.
More controversy swirled around the cannabis licenses as San Diego friends of Wagner's were able to secure one of the eight highly desirable cannabis dispensary licenses before promptly flipping the license and selling it for a profit to a Florida-based company.
Councilmember Alejandra Gutierrez appears to be the only official who has sounded the alarm on Wagner prompting an investigation that was conducted internally by the people he works with and for.
Not to mention, the article points out the inflated salaries of high-ranking city officials, some earning more than California's Governor and officials in Los Angeles with the same title.
While this article is surely making city employees and politicians sweat, it appears to be angering local tax-paying residents. Will anything be done or properly investigated? That remains to be seen but so far nothing has been done.
On Saturday, Santa Barbara City Mayoral candidate James Joyce sent a press release calling for an independent investigation into Wagner, his hiring, and his influence on city offices. Joyce called the article "deeply concerning" and stated transparency is the key to better local government and that all facts in this matter should be made public.
Joyce commended Councilmember Gutierrez for speaking up and admonished Mayor Murillo for the "allowed and possibly even encouraged flagrant abuses of power" by Wagner.
“I am calling for a referral to the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury for an independent investigation into these matters, and specifically the distribution of cannabis licenses in the city. A transparent government is a good government and what happened here is just a clear example of bad government. Mr. Wagner is a clear cut example of how community relations can go awry and wind up being counter-productive: we need to do better,” said Joyce.
These are just a few of the concerning issues raised in this article, but you can read it in full at lamag.com.
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March 15, 2021:
March 15, 2021: