The City of Santa Barbara has no small pile of civil and criminal enforcement cases it will now be able to litigate with the hiring of a full-time prosecutor, Denny Wei. Currently a senior assistant city attorney for Burbank, Wei has been a deputy district attorney for San Benito County, and he teaches criminal law at Glendale University College of Law. Wei has prosecuted more than 50 criminal trials, and he triples the city’s resources on code enforcement, which City Attorney Ariel Calonne described as currently a fraction of a full-time employee. Wei graduated from UC Santa Cruz and the Whittier College School of Law.
The position was funded last year after the City Council pressed for enforcement of “lawless, rogue construction activity, as well as increasing community safety through enforcement of laws that protect public spaces from inappropriate behaviors and nuisance activities,” Calonne said. Wei has extensive experience with mental-health-related crime from his work with Burbank’s Mental Health Evaluation Team. He also worked with Burbank’s community departments, which met to devise a game plan to address cases involving substandard housing.
Wei has tried serious and violent cases, as well as misdemeanors, ranging from child molestation and domestic violence to DUIs. According to online news reports, Wei’s notable cases included the prosecution of an off-duty Glendale police officer in a road-rage incident, a fight aboard an airplane at Burbank Airport, and a hidden camera at the Verdugo Aquatic Facility allegedly placed by a lifeguard.
He said municipal code enforcement prosecutions wouldn’t necessarily make it into the papers, but in Burbank, his cases had included hoarding, drug activity, red-tagged homes that were reoccupied, and other cases that were important to the neighbors and community. “Some went to court, when we had to get them to comply, but not all of them,” Wei said. “They affect the safety of the community and the people who live there.” His first day with the City of Santa Barbara is June 17.