Santa Barbara Police Chief Barney Melekian issued a statement on March 15 regarding an article in Los Angeles magazine and allegations it made of the role played by Anthony Wagner, an employee of the SBPD, in the city’s cannabis licensing. Melekian, who replaced retiring chief Lori Luhnow in March, stated most allegations had been investigated by police or city attorney previously. As well, the city prevailed in a lawsuit filed by an unsuccessful cannabis permit applicant, he said.
New allegations regarding cannabis licenses were raised in the article, and SBPD was retaining an outside firm for an investigation, Melekian said. Wagner is on administrative leave in the meantime.
Wagner also released a statement, saying he supported and welcomed a third-party investigation “to clear my good name of these unsubstantiated accusations. I am confident in the process, without reservation.” Wagner challenged statements in the article about his background, professional interactions, and personal relationships as misstated or misrepresented. He added that the writer, Mitchell Kriegman, had his contact information but did not reach out to him for comment. In his article, Kriegman includes Wagner among those who “have refused multiple requests for interviews or to respond to submitted questions.”
Saying “I have served the people of Santa Barbara for four years with honor and integrity,” Wagner wrote, “Now it will take a formal inquiry and exhaustive due process to restore my sterling professional reputation.”