Op-Ed: Journalist Corrects the Record on LA Magazine Article

[Disclaimer as of 2/28/22: At the request of LA Magazine, their articles have been retracted and any associated links have been removed. For further information read our latest update here. The original article is available in its entirety below.]

By Mitchell Kriegman, former Santa Barbara Resident

Regarding the article I authored that was published in LA Magazine, March 12, 2021, despite statements to the contrary, please note that all parties relevant to the article, including Mr. Wagner, the Mayor, the former Police Chief, and the City Administrator, were individually contacted well before publication, directly by emails uniformly entitled, “An Opportunity to Comment.” Those emails included specific questions and interview requests for each individual. Several parties were contacted more than once.

The City Attorney was the only party to respond. His response was a dismissal of the request. In the City Attorney’s response he pointedly copied City Administrator Paul Casey, Mr. Wagner, the Mayor, and everyone who had been contacted previously. He further widened the group and included every City Council Member in his response.

Presumably, when the City Attorney copies a city employee in an email to a reporter that includes the entire City Council, it would be noticed. Further, as a group, the same parties and City Council Members copied were emailed by me in reply to the City Attorney with a renewed request for interviews and further specific questions in the hopes they would respond either collectively or individually. Thus Mr. Wagner was not only emailed directly, he was also included on all of these multiple email exchanges with the City Attorney. All the submitted questions and interview requests were ignored.

Unless withheld or redacted these emails would be a matter of the City’s public record and available in a Request for Public Information or PRA.

In another matter, in a column published March 17, 2021 in the Montecito Journal, Gwyn Lurie, CEO and Executive Editor of the Montecito Journal asserted that my story had been rejected by her publication. That was not the case. On September 17, 2020, I chose to withdraw an early, preliminary version of the LA Magazine story from the Montecito Journal in correspondence directly with Ms. Lurie. At that time she confirmed that I had withdrawn the story on that day in a WhatsApp text. The story’s withdrawal was verified by me in a subsequent email and via WhatsApp on the same day. There was no discussion previously with Ms. Lurie or any staff members of the Journal refusing the article. The story was never rejected by the Journal. 

The first submitted draft to Los Angeles Magazine six months ago was a 5,000-word story. The article subsequently went through several rounds of edits, revisions, research and fact-checks before it was published at a more concise length on March 12th.

Finally, I’ve responded to two recent requests for comment, one from Nick Welsh at the Independent and the second from Jerry Roberts’ Newsmakers in which I stated as above that Mr. Wagner had been contacted as well as others. Both reporters instead declared that I had declined to comment which was not the case. They have not to my knowledge corrected the record.

Despite the characterization of the LA Magazine story as “theatrical” and the work of “an outsider,” it should be noted that in the last approximately six years I’ve written seven cover features for the Santa Barbara Independent in close collaboration with its Editor-in-Chief and at least twenty other stories and reviews. Working closely with the Executive Editor of the Montecito Journal I’ve written approximately fifteen cover features, many other stories and columns, as well as developing and launching the Morning Mojo e-newsletter and serving as its Editor. Additionally I’ve written two cover features for the Santa Barbara Sentinel, and two cover features for Inside San Ynez.

Until less than a year ago, I had been living on Santa Barbara’s East Side for almost a decade. My kids attended Santa Barbara High School, my daughter played soccer and lacrosse and my sons attended Santa Barbara City College. I’ve mentored and lectured multiple times at UCSB in Environmental Science and Film and media.

Do you have an opinion on something local? Share it with us at ed@edhat.com. The views and opinions expressed in Op-Ed articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of edhat.



 March 14, 2021: Investigative Journalist Hints at Santa Barbara City Corruption

 March 15, 2021: Deciphering the Bombshell LA Magazine Piece that Just Hit City Hall

 March 15, 2021: Santa Barbara City Employee Placed on Administrative Leave Following Article

 March 17, 2021: Lots of Innuendo but Little Substance in Los Angeles Magazine Article

 March 18, 2021: Santa Barbara Officials Respond to Claims in LA Magazine Article

 March 22, 2021: Santa Barbara Police Department Hires Firm to Investigate Employee


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  1. It was a points system. Local applicants got extra points. Since you are so concerned you should have voiced your concerns back then. Now you should lobby the city council for changes, perhaps letting a couple more pot shops open. That would make the “flip” much less valuable.

  2. The mayor come out from behind a police line where there was an armored vehicle and cops in riot gear. If you weren’t located at the very front of the march you wouldn’t know how she got there but it was the same time as the armored vehicle. Small discrepancy.

  3. “The fact that Wagner’s former associate / partner” per the below and the fact that he was his partner in another venture in Pasadena. Anyone doing an FOI request on Wagner’s City email account? Lucky for Wagner the powers that be just want this to go away as soon as possible because it just makes all of them look bad. Especially the City issuing a license that was undervalued by $3.2M. Think they could use some of that money now?

  4. Let’s not forget that Cathy Murillo used to work for the Independent. A more neutral alt weekly would be all over this story, and even with the special relationship, I am surprised that the Independent hasn’t stepped up to dig deeper into what is rotten at City Hall simply because it is such a great story. With a lack of oversight due to a weak mayor, the (overpaid) City Manager has hired a police chief who hired a personal friend who presided over something that looks and smells like a conflict of interest. To allow Wagner to then act as a spokesperson for the mayor is just bizarre. I wonder if Wagner gets a housing allowance, and if so, whether it is paid transparently through an appropriate budget line item or paid as a miscellaneous expense. Dig deeper, people. There is lots to find.

  5. This reminds me how City officials will not comment to requests and always refer to the City Attorney. And the City Attorney then sends out fake news or double talks the issue. Time for him to confirm his pension.

  6. The Indy doesn’t write anything negative about Cathy. Nick can’t make himself do it. So she gets a pass on everything. EdHat covers her better, actually, and covered that BLM march and the way she approached from behind police lines very well. Nick also never looked into Anthony, because that was his inside source at the city.

  7. Early on when this story broke, it was clear the city attorney didn’t want any communications from anyone with that journalist, except from him.
    That clampdown alone should have raised everyone’s hackles. What was there to hide?
    I love how the indignant local journalists, in attempting to ‘kill’ this story (since none of them broke the backstory) have kept it alive for nearly a month now. Noozhawk is now pointing to the real heart of the problem: how did a system geared to locals, scored on points, just transfer a coveted license to someone out of state with very little scrutiny? Who architected that, and who benefitted?

  8. Which false claim? I remember reading 1 error that LA Mag corrected, but they stood by the rest of the reporting. All the other “inaccuracies” were just people saying they never got a call or email. But if Mitch has the proof to back it up, then those people aren’t being honest.

  9. Whether or not an actual crime had been committed, awarding one of the 3 coveted permits to an out of town group (when they specifically wanted to keep it local, I think it was even in the permit application), who then immediately flipped it for millions in profits, is most certainly a scandal. Whether the “scandal” is a result of shady, behind closed doors decision make by city bureaucrats (even if not illegal), bureaucratic incompetence, or both, it is certainly something that shouldn’t have happened so we need to understand how and why it happened to put in protocols to prevent it from happening again.

  10. Let see how long it takes for this story to be discredited further , or swept under the rug. Just like all the other CORRUPTION in this city. They will absolutely shoot the messenger. Nothing in this city gets printed without the say so of the higher ups. They and the PD have controlled it for years. Keep at it, its time that someone expsose this city for what it is. Thank God we have Edhat otherwise we would never hear what really happens in this city. Its shameful that this had to be printed in an LA publication because the Independent, Montecito Journal and never KEYT , would actually report on what actually happened.

  11. Keep up the good journalism.
    They’re circling the wagons which is good sign you are on the right track.
    Not one of the people mentioned including the local reporters are honest and fair. They all have a personal or party agenda that does not coincide with the public’s best interest.

  12. >Unless withheld or redacted these emails would be a matter of the City’s public record and available in a Request for Public Information or PRA.
    Why doesn’t the author just post the receipts, instead of asking readers to file a public records request for information he should have in his possession?
    And even if his claim is true, that doesn’t excuse the gaping error at the heart of his article.

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