Police chief calls magazine’s corrections ‘interesting’
The investigation into the Santa Barbara Police Department’s civilian spokesperson Anthony Wagner remains ongoing, and since it was launched earlier this week, Los Angeles Magazine has issued several corrections to the bombshell story that put him on administrative leave.
The most notable correction by the magazine was that the first version incorrectly identified Micah Anderson as an owner of a dispensary, Golden Gate Greens, who was determined not to be involved at all with the dispensary or the application process for Santa Barbara.
Interim Santa Barbara Police Chief Bernard Melekian said he is unable to provide any comments on the active investigation, but he did tell the News-Press Friday, “What I can say is that, obviously, the corrections were interesting.”
In total, 10 adjustments were made to the article from when it was originally published on March 12. Los Angeles Magazine only identified their correction regarding Mr. Anderson, and for the rest, the magazine wrote at the bottom of the story, “Several minor adjustments were made to the text of the story after publication.”
While six of the 10 corrections had to do with amending the story to omit Mr. Anderson, four more adjustments — some slight — were made on other allegations.
Mitchell Kriegman, the former Nickelodeon writer and producer who penned the article, alleged in the initial copy that Mr. Wagner played a part in Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo’s appearance at the protests of George Floyd’s death last summer. The original version of the article said: “Murillo had declined an invitation to march with the protestors due to her concerns about COVID-19; instead Wagner guided the mayor to the demonstration in an armored SWAT vehicle where she made her entrance walking through a dozen officers dressed in full riot gear from behind police lines.”
The updated version was changed to read: “Murillo had declined an invitation to march with the protesters due to her concerns about COVID-19; instead she made an appearance at the demonstration surrounded by officers dressed in riot gear.”
A few more similar, minor changes were made to the article as well.
“The initial focus of the investigation was to determine whether or not there was a connection that should have been reported and we’re still continuing to do that,” Chief Melekian said. “The corrections, I think, will probably assist in speeding up the process, but we still need to verify those and the relationship or the lack of the relationship through a company other than the media report.”
The original article stated that Mr. Wagner was “implicated but never charged” for being at the table during a payment of a bribe to two San Diego council members of $10,000. The new version now states, “Wagner was never charged …”
In addition, the raw article alleged Mr. Wagner designed the point system for dispensary license applicants, but the updated version says he “helped architect” it. The few lines regarding Mr. Anderson were omitted, including a quote from Santa Barbara Care Center Owner David McFarland saying, “‘Adam K and Micah,’ Mcfarland comments, ‘are all from San Diego and Wagner knew them personally.’ ”
Chief Melekian’s original estimate of the length of the investigation into Mr. Wagner was six to eight weeks.
“I’m hoping it will be earlier than that, but I’m going to stick with that for the time being out of an abundance of caution,” he said.
The Sintra Group is the third party investigating the claims. The interim police chief said he will likely get a report from the Sintra Group next week as to where the private company is with the process, although he won’t be able to share the results until the investigation’s official conclusion.
“We’re committed — and when I say we, I mean the city, City Attorney Calonne and myself — that when the investigation is finished, we will release everything we’re legally permitted to release,” Chief Melekian said. “I won’t be doing any updates during the course of it.”