In a press release issued on Aug. 11, the neighborhood group Concerned Carpinterians questioned the campaign contributions of First District Supervisor Das Williams, stating that Williams had “raked in a stunning $30,500 from 12 different cannabis growers—all of whom are awaiting final permits, while operating under provisional licenses in unincorporated Carpinteria.”
The group also stated that Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino collected $7,000 from four separate Carpinteria cannabis operators. Relaying concern that the donations have been in advance of crucial votes, Concerned Carpinterians have called for Williams and Lavagnino to recuse themselves “on all pending cannabis appeals and permits and any appeals going forward from cannabis donors.”
Carpinteria-based cannabis growers that have contributed to Williams’ campaign include the Van Wingerden and Brand families along with Autumn Shelton, John De Friel and Graham Farrar.
As of June 30, Williams’ campaign funds for 2019 thus far total $251,000, with cannabis contributions from Carpinteria growers at about 12 percent of total donations. Local firefighters and deputy sheriffs’ groups have contributed a higher percent, with contributions at $35,000 to date.
In a response written to CVN, Williams stated, “I don’t take contributions from oil or tobacco sources, but I don’t believe local farmers, many of whom have been in this community for decades or generations, should be lumped into that group.
“That being said, I have decided to refrain from asking for contributions from marijuana farmers while the approval or denial of a number of specific operations is before the Board of Supervisors. My hope is this action will mean a higher degree of confidence in the county process.”
Williams also stated that the cannabis donations being cited were “old news”—donations made in previous years that were left over and had been rolled over from his 2016 campaign funds into his 2020 re-election account, and therefore had to be cited in current reporting (all but one which was a contribution that came in “unasked for”).
He went on to state that “since taking the contributions, I have voted to tighten regulations on marijuana.” Since questions regarding campaign contributions erupted in June, Williams has returned checks from cannabis growers amounting to $30,000 in unaccepted campaign contributions.
CVN obtained a copy of a letter to the Clerk of the Board of the County of Santa Barbara from an attorney at Loeb & Loeb, LLP, Los Angeles, requesting all communications sent or received between Jan. 1 and June 26, 2019, for all county supervisors or their chiefs of staff. Requests have also been made to all county planning commissioners, Deputy CEO Dennis Bozanich, County Counsel Michael Ghizzoni, the District Attorney’s office and the Department of Planning and Development staff to or from non-county individuals/organizations including Concerned Carpinterians and several Carpinteria residents. The letter was dated June 27. At press time, CVN could not confirm who had retained Loeb & Loeb to make this request or if the firm had been retained for any other legal action associated with cannabis regulations in Santa Barbara County.