Nick Torpedoes 'Blockbuster': Key Figure Named in Pot Article Does Not Own Disputed SB License
SB Independent columnist Nick Welsh on Wednesday knocked down a critical assertion in the Los Angeles Magazine piece that has roiled City Hall -- reporting that a key character in the article is not connected to a disputed Santa Barbara retail pot license.
Welsh's reporting, in his Angry Poodle column in this week's edition of the Indy, undercuts the most serious corruption allegation in the magazine story, by TV writer Mitchell Kriegman.
Kriegman reported multiple times in his story that a San Diego man named Micah Anderson, a personal friend and former business partner of embattled Santa Barbara Police Department spokesman Anthony Wagner, was a partner in a company called Golden State Greens, which won one of only three city retail pot licenses via a legal process which Wagner played a central role in designing and overseeing.
In fact, Nick reports, the article's reporting on that matter is "false at its very core." From the Poodle:
"Kriegman alleges that Wagner’s former business partner Micah Anderson was a partner...(in Golden State Greens)...If true, that would mean Wagner helped evaluate the project of a former business partner. That, in any book, constitutes a major conflict of interest. Failure by Wagner to disclose such a fox-guarding-the-henhouse relationship would be grounds for immediate termination and perhaps legal action.
Acting Police Chief Barney Melekian placed Wagner on paid administrative leave this Monday so that an outside entity hired by City Hall could investigate Anderson’s role in this deal and determine if Wagner failed to disclose any conflict to his superiors.
I covered the dispensary selection process and have no recollection of Micah Anderson. His name appears on none of the documents. Had Kriegman talked to Wagner, Wagner would have told him — as he told me — Anderson had absolutely nothing to do with the deal.
Had he called Anderson, Anderson would have told him the same thing. I know because I called Anderson on Tuesday night. Anderson said he had nothing to do with the Santa Barbara deal...
Anderson also said he had never been contacted by anyone in connection with the Los Angeles magazinearticle either by phone, by email, or by text. “That’s kind of unusual,” he said. Don’t you think?”'
What Kriegman reported. In his 4,000 word story, Kriegman detailed Wagner's past business relationship with Anderson, and mentioned, at least four times, Anderson's purported -- but now debunked -- connection to Golden State Greens and its owner, a man named Adam Knopf; in San Diego, Wagner was acquainted with Knopf but had no professional or personal relationship with him.
From Los Angeles Magazine:
"Soon after Wagner's assignment (on city pot licenses), key associates from his San Diego past began to appear in Santa Barbara, namely Adam Knopf and Wagner's former business parter, Micah Anderson, of a new combined company called Golden State Greens.
"In July 2018, following an eight-month review, three of the eight recreational cannabis dispensaries were selected. Golden State Greens, owned by Wagner's friends Knopf and Anderson from San Diego, was the recipient of one of the coveted licenses.
"'Adam K and Micah," (a competing businessman) comments, 'are all from San Diego and Wagner knew them personally.'"
"That Knopf and Anderson could turn a profit at all by selling their license was controversial."
Welsh also reports that Knopf and Anderson partnered in an unsuccessful bid to get a license in Pasadena, a year after the Santa Barbara transaction.
The issue of ownership of Golden State Greens is consequential, because another troubling issue included in the magazine story concerns how and why the company was allowed to "flip" its hard-won license to a company that had never applied for permission to do business in Santa Barbara, netting an estimated profit of millions of dollars.
An explanation for allowing that transaction, which was first disclosed by Josh Molina last year (and reprised in the magazine with no credit to his reporting), remains unclear.
Via email from Portugal, Kriegman declined to comment to Newsmakers.