marijuana

In this file photo, outside a marijuana dispensary on North Chester Avenue, a woman displays her newly purchased cannabis.

The Kern County District Attorney’s Office has cleared multiple county officials of bribery allegations and numerous other violations relating to the cannabis industry.

In a news release issued Friday, the DA’s Office announced that the Public Integrity Unit had found Kern County Supervisor Mike Maggard, Planning and Natural Resources Director Lorelei Oviatt, multiple county employees and one Kern County sheriff's deputy were innocent of the allegation that they had been involved in a bribery scheme in 2010.

The deputy's full name was not disclosed.

The allegations were first made public in early April by local attorney Abraham Labbad and dispensary owner David Valencia, who also goes by David Peralta, who claimed that he paid Oviatt more than $70,000 in cash to clear the way for his medical marijuana dispensary to operate.

The allegations also involved county employees Walter Baldwin, Kim Baldwin, Chuck Lackey and Al Rojas.

“Labbad and Valencia could not present any documentary or corroborating evidence to support the allegations, which were also reported to the FBI,” the DA said in the release. “No evidence of unusual financial activity was discovered during the investigation. There is no evidence to corroborate any of the accusations made by David Valencia, and the accusations are contrary to previous statements taken by Valencia in 2018, where he denied even hearing of any government official being bribed.”

The only other purported witness to the alleged bribery, an employee of the Antelope Valley Diamond Collective dispensary, could not confirm important details of the alleged event, nor any of the other officials allegedly involved, the DA added in its news release.

"While I'm grateful the DA has cleared this up once and for all, I'm disgusted with the deceitful and dishonest nature of so many involved in this industry," Maggard said in a statement. "Our community deserves better than this."

A phone call seeking comment and an email to Oviatt were not immediately returned.

The release also cleared Supervisor Zack Scrivner of “evidence tampering,” and Maggard of Brown Act violations.

The evidence tampering allegation stemmed from an incident that occurred in August 2018 when sheriff’s deputies raided four dispensaries in Rosamond.

After items had been seized from dispensaries, Scrivner and sheriff’s Cmdr. Adam Plugge participated in an interview in which they showed off some of the marijuana products that had been seized and had been put in the back of a trailer.

The interview was captured on video and shows no evidence tampering by anyone, the release says.

A call to Scrivner seeking comment was not immediately returned.

The two alleged Brown Act violations involved two meetings that took place in 2017 and 2018.

The Brown Act governs rules related to meetings of local legislative bodies and is meant to ensure the public’s right to participate and attend such meetings.

In general, the Brown Act states that meetings that involve a majority of a governing body must be open to the public and an agenda must be made available in advance.

The first allegations stated that Maggard and Bakersfield resident Chad Garcia had discussed issues related to cannabis at some point in 2017.

“Even assuming the conversation occurred as described, there is no violation of the Brown Act when a member of a legislative body speaks with someone about issues pertaining to the body,” the release said.

The second allegation involved a November 2018 meeting at the restaurant Hungry Hunter, in which Bakersfield residents who have spoken out either in opposition or support of cannabis, including David Brust, Keith Lawless, Heather Epps, Chad Garcia and Stacy Jischk, — were reportedly present.

“There is no evidence that anything discussed at the meeting was presented (to) any member of the Board of Supervisors,” the release stated. “The complete absence of any member of a legislative body is certainly not a ‘majority’ of the legislative body that is required for a meeting to be held in violation of the Brown Act.”

The DA said the investigation spanned more than two months and involved interviews of more than 20 potential witnesses.

“Despite a thorough investigation, there was absolutely no evidence revealed to support the claims made by members of the cannabis industry,” the release stated.

Sam Morgen can be reached at 661-395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @smorgenTBC.

(11) comments

Nevermind

One weirdo makes accusations and Maggard puts all dispensary advocates on the slime bus. Not collecting taxes on pot sales is stupid. Do you think because you don't allow officially licensed pot sales that people aren't going to purchase them? Meanwhile, tobacco and alcohol, both many times more harmful to society, get a free pass. The hypocrisy is mind boggling

bakodon

sure got the pot heads riled up...

The Jackal

As you probably know, proving that public officials were engaged in bribery or extortion schemes or any criminal activity, is not easy. You need hard evidence such as documentation, text messages, and emails for example.

The DA was provided some evidence and one Supervisor has already been indicted for taking bribes from Weedmaps, in a bribery permit scheme.

As for Supervisor Maggard, it's ridiculous that the DA's office hasn't charged him yet. There's proof he took money from The Crop, a dispensary in Kern County, in December 2017. It's on his form 460. Then The Crop was added to the list of approved dispensaries the following month, in January 2018, and was one of the few dispensaries to get a local permit and State Licensing.

Maggard was talking about a 6 dispensary ordinance right after they banned in December of 2017. In a declaration by Chad Garcia, he says he met with Maggard, and discussed cannabis. Maggard lied and said he had no such discussions with anyone.

The Brown Act act violation is that Maggard was representing a majority of the Board and discussed a pre-approved cannabis ordinance of record. Maggard was at that meeting representing the Board, not just himself.

In the meeting they had a year later (after 6 dispensaries coincidentally got local permits) David Brust, as an intermediary on behalf of the majority of the board, discussed the 6 dispensary ordinance they were trying to push and obtain political cover for.

Supervisor Zack Scrivner should at the very least recuse himself from any cannabis votes as he previously lied about selling marijuana to "make money". How can you trust him? Zack has poor moral character and shouldn't even be a Supervisor.

It was clear from the YouTube video that he had his grubby hands all over evidence and tampering with it. Anyone could see that.

Lorelie Oviatt was the tool of corruption. She admitted in a sworn declaration that she only approved 6 dispensaries, but the other 23 were ignored, stonewalled, or denied arbitrarily and capriciously.

There's more to come. New evidence will be presented. Not just to the DA's office, because as we know, the DA's office has a history of prosecutorial misconduct, including protection for those that commit crimes while maliciously prosecuting others. Can't trust them to investigate themselves.

Kathleen Ellis Faulkner

So what's happened with Leticia Perez.Are charges against her dropped too?

The Jackal

No.

JR

Three words: cor-rup-tion. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Shameful.

Concerned Citizen of Bakersfield

Good...more time to work on putting that pedo priest in prison

bakodon

Now is the time to sue the lying bas@3urds for all they got!

The Jackal

The meetings actually did happen as they mentioned in the article.

Copper

Why is cannabis even an issue? Just shows this town is still backwoods and backwards. Let the shops open tax it to death and use the money for teachers salaries and homeless services. Jeez people get with it.

Mrknowitall

Laggard paints “the industry” with a broad brush saying it disgusts him. When a judge or law enforce officer or oilfield worker or doctor does something rotten and illegal, I don’t hear supervisors saying they are disgusted by that industry. Ya know why? Because there are bad apples in every walk if life. When spewing hate, Maggard tried doing a Trump by kicking a bum that attacked him. Mike. You ain’t no Donald Trump. Lol. Why not just comment: as I stared from the beginning there is nothing of substance here and I welcomed the inquiry which was thorough and absolved all those falsely accused. Class. Ever heard of that?

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