Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption title=
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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.

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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PitMix Mar 15, 2021 01:37 PM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

Hard to stop the public safety union pension boondoggle when those unions use their power during elections. Seems like the rule could be easy- any public pension payment is offset by the salary you are making from another public agency. That's how they do it for Social Security, right?

Sun Mar 15, 2021 09:49 AM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

What is the name of the Florida based Company, No name is provided? How does a Florida Based Company use a Santa Barbara License? Who is Mitchell Kriegman, where do his interests lay, was he paid to write this article? By whom? Maybe someone should find out? Sounds like PR gossip and we all know how gossip works, instill fear to gain power and control.... we saw how that ended up in 2020! 500,000 dead, majority unemployed, but for some reason people keep electing and believing the Reality
TV news, when in reality it is Fake.

Bird Mar 15, 2021 10:09 AM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

Right, read the article and watch the recent interview with Kriegman by Jerry Roberts (http://newsmakerswithjr.com) -- read also Roberts' notes at the end clarifying points in the article. The SUN seems a bit dim this morning.

Sun Mar 15, 2021 09:40 AM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

This article sounds fishy,...What Florida company bought the License, there is no name of the company? How would a Florida based Company, be able to use a Santa Barbara License? Who is Mitchell Kriegman, is he part of PR defamation ?

LoveMySB Mar 15, 2021 09:29 AM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

Blah blah blah lets stop complaining about the things here on Edhat (Cathy, the PW dept., the planning dept) that we all know are problems with our city government & start with some action. I have no experience in organizing this sort of thing but it seems to me that we need a citizens oversite group (comprised of us the tax payers) to start making these people accountable for the way they spend our tax dollars. IMO we need to stop electing people too who are in the pockets of Ed St. George. I know & have worked with Jason Dominguez who is someone I respect and we need back in our city government as he stood up to Cathy & her minions. I personally don't like Alejandra Gutierrez because I feel she only represents "her people" on the Eastside where I live on most issues but I do appreciate the fact that she stood up & is questioning these issues with Anthony Wager when it seems no one else on coucil has the guts to do it.

Resident Mar 15, 2021 07:18 PM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

LoveMySB, You say, "... it seems to me that we need a citizens oversite (sic) group (comprised of us the tax payers) to start making these people accountable for the way they spend our tax dollars." Isn't that what our City Council is supposed to be? They are supposed to be elected to provide oversight and guidance to our City staff who spends our tax dollars.

a-1615831670 Mar 15, 2021 11:07 AM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

Alejandra is doing just what district elections wanted elected officials to do- represent the entire city but also be a diligent advocate/watchdog for her constituents. I don't live in her district, but I think she's been terrific.

bosco Mar 15, 2021 10:17 AM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

I have been a Guttierez critic for the same reasons you mentioned here. However, I will admit she has redeemed herself to some extent with her recent actions and statements. That said, I wholeheartedly agree that Jason Dominguez needs to get back in the rat race. His intelligence and practicality is much needed in our city. While I'd love to see him go up against Murrillo for Mayor, I don't want to see the race further diluted.

PitLocal Mar 15, 2021 09:14 AM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

The only surprising thing about this article is how long it took to come out. Paul Casey has corruptly led this City (and its planning department) for waaayy too many years. Since when does a civil service career mean you get paid more than 4x the median income of the City you work for? It's not just Santa Barbara either, it's happening in municipalities throughout the state. Goes to show the lack of voter control over local government, and how government officials have abused that structure to line their pockets. Forget defunding the police, DEFUND THE CITY ADMINISTRATORS SALARIES!

salsa guy Mar 15, 2021 09:04 AM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

Let’s start here, those highly paid city employees did not set their salaries. We elected a city council that GAVE them those outrageous salaries. Can anyone explain why, for example, Mr. Casey, is making more than the governor of CA? We are city of less than 100,000 people. California has a population of close to 39 million. Does that make sense? Not to pick on Case alone, but you could go down the list of highly paid city employees and would be astounded at the salaries/ benefits they receive . I would bet we could terminate most of them and the operation of the city wouldn’t skip a beat. How many lower salaried underlings in each department are there waiting for a chance to move up. Bet there are a lot of these super well trained employees that we have paid thousands of dollars to train. Another point, why when we have so many well trained employees do we constantly do “national searches” when there is an opening for COP, city administrator, etc. what is wrong from hiring from within? Lastly, the city council needs to take back the reins of government. They are our elected officials, not some administrator. Remember this when you vote next time.

Bouchard Mar 14, 2021 09:23 PM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

. I don't have a dog in this political fight and don't know the players, but insiders tell me this article is not really so much a hit piece about Cathy and Wagner, as much as clearing the way for Debra Scwartz in her run for mayor who, in turn, is in the pocket of a developer named Ed St. Gorge. And that he probably got his PR people onto the reporter to write this piece.

a-1615846117 Mar 15, 2021 03:08 PM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

She does his bidding- tries to keep his name off things, but who do you think pushed the “term sheet” so Ed St G could bypass regular land use process? Schwartz and Alejandra- Please people- the article is about Anthony Wagner and his misdeeds- try not to extrapolate the wider connections until you know what strings are being pulled and for whom

a-1615827560 Mar 15, 2021 09:59 AM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

What is the claim that Deborah Schwartz is in the pocket of Ed St. James based on? Has he contributed to her previous campaign? Does she defend his schemes at the Planning Commission? Does she socialize with him? Please put forth some facts.

a-1615782404 Mar 14, 2021 09:26 PM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

I disagree. She's a status quo candidate - let's go back to 2015! Same as Randy and Cathy. She has no answers for this kind of thing.
Agree with you, however, that she is totally Ed St. George's lapdog. He would be the shadow mayor behind her.

Bene Mar 14, 2021 07:07 PM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

I know nothing about Wagner's corruption or lack thereof, but reporter Mitchell Kreigman refers to Santa Barbara as "gentile Santa Barbara." Pretty sure he meant to say genteel. But if Kriegman doesn't even know the difference between those two disparate terms, his credibility is in question.

Bene Mar 14, 2021 09:13 PM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

"Autocorrect?" Professional organizations should have more than that.
Think copy editors. Think reporters with a good grasp of vocabulary and attention to detail. A reporter careful with his/her facts is not only careful researching facts but has the care to vet problems like this before his/her story gets published.

RHS Mar 14, 2021 06:53 PM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

It is sad that this exposure has to come from so far outside the city. I have pointed out questionable city actions that seem to be influenced by suspect deals for at least a decade. The most able actor in these scenarios is the Public Works Department. The most flagrant and expensive debacle being the TWO hugely expensive desalination contracts. The other most obvious favoritism being the catering to the bicycle lobby and the grotesque recent example of the green eye sore on State Street. These awful things were approved by our City Manager Casey. He then promoted the PW director to be his assistant at a salary that is, or should be, embarrassing to the public. The city needs a good cleaning for sure. One of the reasons we needed district elections was to break up the cartel of the downtown business cartel that ignored these shenanigans as long as they got what they wanted. It is wonderful to know that the elected districts are producing criticism and shining light on the unsavory corners of our city government.

a-1615784379 Mar 14, 2021 09:59 PM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

Interesting about Public Works. When the Waterfront Department director had to retire because of illness, who should Mr Casey appoint but someone from the PW Department who had no experience with the Waterfront; and PW's Dayton is behind all the pushing for bikes and bike lanes on State Street. RHS: the other districts have been supine - only Dist. 1, first, Dominguez and now A. Gutierrez have stood up.

smary Mar 14, 2021 06:06 PM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

Santa Barbara seems to be awash with gross overspending and negligible positive results. Coupled w/this article, (disgusting if true), I'm also shaking my head because after multiple costly studies (anyone know the grand total?), it took COVID to get these do nothing, foot dragging bureaucrats to clean up state street, and open it up for dining.

a-1615763317 Mar 14, 2021 04:08 PM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

The Council has appointment authority over only the City Administrator and the City Attorney. For both of those, especially, the Administrator, Paul Casey, our last 1st District councilmember, Dominguez, tried to get his fellow councilmembers to stand up and do something. They wouldn't. It will be interesting to see if the newest councilmember is listened to more by her fellow councilmembors. Unlike Dominguez, she has the smiling ear of both Jerry Roberts and Nick Welsh, a bit of reverse sexism, maybe, so we'll see. It ain't what you say or think it's how well you can convince your peers to listen to you.

dukemunson Mar 14, 2021 04:39 PM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

Because when I asked a friend who voted for her, the best he could come up with was “she’s not really around much or really seemingly do much, so... at least she’s not doing too much bad”.

Which... ok... yeah, I can agree... not doing much bad is Better than doing much that is bad. But can you come up with something (anything) tangible????

dukemunson Mar 14, 2021 04:22 PM
Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

Have you been able to come up with anything in support of the mayor ... anything? What has she accomplished in her time? Because the best she could come up with is how impressive her campaign donations and have been...

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