Monday, February 06, 2012

Setting The Record Straight, Almost

I JUMPED ON IT!
My previous post, which I exuberantly titled, "Marijuana Advocacy Program Forced Off Local Radio", quoted, verbatim, a "press release" apparently from officials at local radio station KOCI-FM 101.5 outlining the reasons for abruptly terminating one of their regularly-scheduled programs, "Cannabis Community".

FREEDOM OF SPEECH, NOT POT
I wrote that post not because I'm sympathetic to the operators of so-called medical marijuana dispensaries, but because the circumstances as described in the press release reeked of government - federal and local - interference in this matter. To me, this was a freedom of speech issue, pure and simple. Well, it turns out that it was neither pure nor simple.

CLOSING THE LOOP

I spent much of the day trying to contact the parties involved in this fiasco. I spoke with the manager of the station, Brent Kahlen, their General Counsel, Barry Jorgensen, Cannabis Community host Robert Martinez, community activist, former city council candidate and former medical marijuana dispensary owner Sue Lester and Costa Mesa Director of Communications, Bill Lobdell. I also exchanged many emails with the person, who will remain anonymous for the time being, who authored the press release. Eventually, this evening, I had finally made enough contacts, asked enough questions and received enough answers to feel comfortable about trying to close the loop. While viewpoints differ as to what, precisely, was said at the radio station studios Sunday morning, here are the "facts" as I now know them.

THOUGHT MARTINEZ COULDN'T AFFORD THE AIR TIME

Sometime last week Kahlen had a conversation with Martinez in which concern was made
about Martinez' ability to come up with the fee the station charges to put the show on the air. This was because Martinez had shut down his medical marijuana dispensary following receipt of a cease and desist letter from the U.S Attorney's office. Kahlen was under the impression that Martinez wouldn't be able to come up with the cash, so removed the program from the roster.

DIFFERENT VIEWS O
F EVENTS
Sunday morning
Martinez showed up with Sue Lester, who was to be a guest on the show, and another unidentified guest, ready to broadcast. He brought with him a check and presented it to Barry Jorgensen, who at first accepted it. At that point another employee of the station expressed surprise that the show would go on, so a discussion took place during which Jorgensen at one point attempted to negotiate a lesser time slot. Views of the conversation differ, but Martinez, Lester and another KOCI employee heard the version portrayed in the press release - which implied FBI, chamber of commerce and city council involvement. Jorgensen denies ever mentioning those entities, but did admit that station management had concerns about the program because of all the controversy swirling around the dispensaries in Costa Mesa and other local cities. With their license up for renewal, they didn't want any controversy. Kahlen was called and, on a speaker phone for all to hear, told Jorgensen to cancel the program. That happened just minutes before the scheduled air time. Jorgensen returned Martinez' check to him and Martinez and his party left the station.

NO GOVERNMENT CONTACT
When I spoke with Jorgensen this evening I asked him twice, point blank, if there had been ANY contact by the FBI, chamber of commerce or representatives of Costa Mesa government on this subject. He flatly denied ANY such contact. Their decision was purely a business decision - to avoid placing their continued operation in jeopardy.

BUSINESS DECISION

During my conversation earlier to day with Brent Kahlen he also denied any governmental involvement, emphasizing confusion about whether Martinez would come up with the money and the business decision to take him off the air.

BOGUS PRE
SS RELEASE
As to the "press release" that launched this controversy, here's what happene
d...
Following the event described above at which a surprised Martinez had his show canceled, he was departing with Lester and others when that unnamed employee mentioned above, feeling sympathy for his plight, offered to construct a template of a press release for him to issue - assuming it would be issued under Martinez' name. He did so, and emailed it to Martinez.

TWO HUGE MISTAKES

Martinez looked it over and forwarded the email on to Sue Lester, who tidied it up by correcting a mistake and deleting superfluous information. She then extracted Martinez' email address, to protect it from the public. She then posted it exactly as it appeared in my blog entry, including the KOCI "From" line, which made it appear to have been issued by the radio station. (For some reason, when I copied and pasted the Facebook post the actual email "from" address was dropped, leaving only "KOCI"). The employee who wrote it is not authorized to issue press releases. He wrote the document as a "draft" to help a friend compose his own. He didn't expect it to be used verbatim. So, we have TWO BIG MISTAKES. The first was the original composition of the "draft" press release. The second was Sue Lester's deletion of the Martinez address line, which resulted in the confusion about who issued it.

SNOOKERED BY AN UNINTENDED MANIPULATION
Lester then posted the "press release" several places, including on my Facebook page. That's where I
saw it and reacted by posting my blog entry. I trusted the identity of the author of the press release because I recognized the sending address. I didn't think it had been manipulated - but it had.

ANGRY LOBDELL DENIES ANY CITY INVOLVEMENT
This morni
ng, while I was out, I received an angry message on my answer machine from Bill Lobdell. He, correctly so, was fuming about the implications of my blog entry. He vehemently denied, in the message and during our subsequent conversation, that ANY person from the City had made contact with KOCI to influence them regarding the radio program. Based on his protestations and my subsequent conversations today, I must only conclude that he is correct.

TWO VERSIONS OF SAME CONVERSATION

Although my investigation resulted in two different versions of the conversation at the station Sunday morning - it amounts to a "they said/they said" kind of situation - wit
h all things considered, it doesn't seem likely that there has been any governmental attempt to influence KOCI - at least not overtly. I'm not accusing either side of lying. I think that, in the heat of the moment, each "heard" a different version of the event. Certainly, the management of the station has a very heightened sensitivity to their position in the community, their pending license renewal and the controversy around marijuana in general these days. They made the business decision they felt was best for their station.

WHY DID I BELIEVE IT?
For me, though, there's a bigger question at play here. As I waded through the morass of this situation today I kept asking myself why I was so ready to believe the conspiracy element of this event. Here's what I've come up with... First, because the laws governing marijuana use differ widely from the federal to the state, local jurisdictions are between that literal "rock and hard place". As a result, it is my understanding that the only way federal authorities will act in a local jurisdiction is if they are invited in by local authorities. It is also my understanding that this has happened in the case of Costa Mesa recently, where most - if not all - so-called medical marijuana dispensaries have been forced out of business by the feds.

AND...
Because of that attitude, and because our current City Council has demonstrated a willing
ness to play fast and loose with the rules on many other issues, it was - unfortunately - easy for me to contemplate municipal interference in this issue. I've been told there was none, so I will accept that unless facts later prove otherwise. However, I've grown to distrust this council because they've demonstrated, time after time, their untrustworthiness. Sorry, but that's the way it is...

THAT'S MY VIEW, BUT...
You can read Sean Greene's account of the story from the Orange County Register HERE and Joe Serna's report from the Daily Pilot HERE. I'm not the only citizen/journalist to pursue this issue. I've given you my summary and conclusion, but others may arrive at a different outcome. I guess we'll see...





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19 Comments:

Anonymous Fast and loose indeed said...

Geoff,

I am extremely disappointed with you.

After all that detailed, excellent sleuthing, you still cannot bring yourself to acknowledge that the City - including hundreds of professionals who have no ties to anyone on Council - would EVER do such a thing!

You were virtually gleeful at the possibility that Righeimer and Co. could have cooked this up - an extraordinarily serious charge, and your merry band of anonymous haters jumped right on board.

Your ending paragraphs are nothing but backpedaling nonsense.

Talk about playing fast an loose - you have cornered the market.

2/07/2012 12:40:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Gee, I guess you'll just have to be disappointed.

I presented the facts as I found them and, although I'd much prefer that the stories were precisely the same, they are not. Nothing I can do about that.

Are you postulating that anyone within the City's employee was culpable? I suppose we could put them all up against a wall and slap them around a little to try to drag "the truth" out of them... is that what you want?

I suggest that, rather than spend another second so disappointed, you just stop visiting this site. It might make your life much easier...

2/07/2012 01:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Ooooouch said...

Dear Fast & Loose,

I agree. This gotcha mentality by Council Haters puts on sour colored glasses to view events and desperately, I mean desperately wants Council to fail.

Anger and emotion drive logic.

The other side of the coin goes ignored. There is a rumor floating around about back room pension deals being cut. Mandoki negotiates a deal with an employee group that benefits Roeder, or so I hear.

That negotiated benefit would have also benefited both Mandoki who negotiated the agreement, and Roeder who was 2 years away from retirement and it was Roeder's job to protect our City.

I am sure I don't have all the details and facts.

But based on a possibility that Roeder's pension went from $140,000 something to $190,000 something. And Roeder would have contributed only 1% for 2 years for that extraordinary windfall ...

Geoff West has been a supporter of both. I was glad to see Mandoki leave. My point is that Geoff West has not reported a single thing on this. West is unlikely to lift a finger to deep dive into this issue as it does not have an anti Council conspiracy theory attached to it.

Like Wendy Leece, they are focused on meaningless activity, like electronic devices @ Council. What if Union written comments or those prepared by Genis were not allowed? Would / could Leece have anything to say?

I predict West will not investigate this pension possibility. Over 20 years it could cost taxpayers $1,000,000

2/07/2012 04:26:00 AM  
Anonymous unanimous said...

this site seems to already have lost a lot of the ocgop crowd. that is unfortunate , now Ridge will really think his side has a huge majority of Mesans behind him since he now has about 20 out of the 25 readers of this blog on his side. Chasing away the repugs may seem like a victory but you will soon get bored with preaching to each other while the repugs are now focusing on the election (of 2014, 2012 taken care of months ago). The tone of the articles here, so vehemently anti council and full of conspiracies that are not true has caused an exodus of repugs and independents, I hear it all the time. Too bad. I will still read for the up to date info on what is happening and just disregard the editorial content and comments, and thus, no more comments from me. This place is like msnbc now. Adios haters

2/07/2012 06:43:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Geoff,

Yesterday's mix-up was completely understandable. I'm annoyed that because of the incompetence and/or intentional misrepresentation by certain people, you had to waste valuable journalism time chasing down this nonsense.

I share Judge James Gray's views on marijuana and other drugs. That said, it should not be the main focus today in Costa Mesa. Our city is under attack by extremists who will do or say anything to get their way.

I see issues like the 19th Street Bridge and Medical Marijuana as distractions. While they are legitimate questions, too important to ignore, they are still a small part of the Big Picture.

Keep your eye on the ball my friends. Ignore Riggy pulling his pants down in the grandstands or Mensy cursing out the umpire.

Put the bong down for a couple hours and help save Costa Mesa.

2/07/2012 08:01:00 AM  
Blogger Gericault said...

What is undisputed is that these dispensary's were shut down.

......and then shut down AGAIN before they could talk about it.

Coincedence.......? You decide.

2/07/2012 08:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Diane McLucas said...

Geoff, you wrote, "... kept asking myself why I was so ready to believe the conspiracy element of this event." Why even go there? Those of us who read your blog know that you detest 4 of the 5 councilmembers and that you will jump at any chance to implicate them at any hint of wrongdoing. Your reaction was no surprise - You have been wrong about them far more times than you have been right. What amazes me about this is the willingness of those in the private sector to talk to bloggers. As one character in the film "Contagion" said, "Blogging isn't writing, it's graffiti with punctuation."

2/07/2012 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

"Diane":
"..in the film Contagion said, "Blogging isn't writing, it's graffiti with punctuation."

Me:

Yet here you are, spray painting your agenda.

2/07/2012 10:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Assumptions said...

Pot Stirrer,

I suggest that you read Fast an loose indeed's post again. You assumed the worst about this incident. You assumed that the City had committed a grave offense against free speech. Your assumption was based on personal bias.

Fast and loose indeed wasn't "postulating that anyone within the City's employee was culpable."

YOU WERE. That is the point.

No one at the City would ever threaten to shut down a radio program, or ask the feds to do so. The feds wouldn't either.

Instead of writing a backpedaling nonsense excuse for your wild assumption, try actually admitting that your bias caused you to assume the worst of many good people. Then try apologizing.

2/07/2012 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger Colin said...

With the current city council, I have the same thoughts. Once trust is gone it's hard to get back, and the city council has a credibility gap. Pot Stirrer went back, did a good job getting all the facts that hadn't come out yet at time of first print. And I agree this is a first admendment issue. Also, I do find it interesting that all these issues with the bridge and dispensories coming up, at the same time we should be talking about a charter and direction of our city. I simply do not trust the council to do antyhing that's not for their own interests. Plain and simple.

2/07/2012 12:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Supporter said...

Geoff,

I love this blog because it is a great place for all the council lovers to come here, tell you how wrong you are, and hate on you.

It's funny because if these people don't like you as much as they say then they can easily not read your blog. The truth of the matter is they need to read it and comment as well.

Keep up the good work Geoff. There are a lot of us in the community that support you and your blog. 100%

So to all you Geoff haters! If you don't like what you read....Don't come to his website....=)

That is all!

2/07/2012 12:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Sad but true said...

The issue isn't liking or disliking - even loving or hating - Geoff and his blog.

The issue is accountability, fairness and objectivity from a man who demands those things from the people he writes about.

The issue is bullying, profanity and personal attacks both written by and allowed to be posted on his blog by a blogger who points his finger at everyone else while viciously attacking those he disagrees with.

Yes, he is a private citizen with every right to write whatever the heck he wants, but the hypocrisy is really unprecedented.

More and more, it is apparent that the blogger has sadly become what he alleges to condemn.

2/07/2012 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Sad but True,
Once again, if what you read here distresses you so much, please stop reading.

I suggest your dismay is simply false angst. You're one of the anonymous sycophants of the power structure attempting to take over our city and use this forum to stand behind the tree and spit epithets.

For your own mental well-being, please stop reading here.

2/07/2012 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

"Sad But True" scrawled:


"The issue is bullying, profanity and personal attacks both written by and allowed to be posted on his blog by a blogger who points his finger at everyone else while viciously attacking those he disagrees with."

Me:

Menssy is blogging now??

2/07/2012 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger valan2 said...

Ooooooch, who I'll bet is a synonym for a current Council member or close associate, delights in trying to turn the distrust issue from the current Council to former staff. He seems to be accusing the former City Manager of a conflict of interest with regard to his retirement benefits. The same concern was expressed to me by a current Council member last week.

The thing he (or they) forget is that this is the same former City Manager who refused raises on a number of occasions while he was in office. Would someone who refused salary increases (which determine pension amounts) negotiate pension benefits to line his own pockets? I don't think so. Don't believe rumors in vacuums.

They're just throwing out red herrings in an attempt to distract us from the real issues. I agree with Geoff - this Council majority has, by its own words and actions, established a reputation that leads one to default to suspicion when we hear claims of inappropriate behavior. I, and many people I talk with, have the same reaction.

It's like the boy crying "wolf." You hear enough lies, or reports of misbehavior, and you assume the next report falls in the same category. It's a shame it's come to this, but that's the inevitable result of the Council majority's behavior over the last year.

2/07/2012 03:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Sad but true said...

Try a little objectivity, Pot Stirrer. You may just find it refeshing.

Take a little 3-hour tour through your archives and reexamine the way you have characterized, and the things you have written about, the various public figures you don't like. Then spend a few minutes really thinking about those personal attacks and what they mean.

Regarding anonymity - that is just about everyone here, especially good 'ol Joe, ain't it?

Joe, thanks for making my point for me!

2/07/2012 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Sad but true,
So, you took a 3-hour tour through my archives, huh? Did you also go through the archives of my previous blog host - the first 18 months of this blog. Try that - it's a fun trip, too.

Clearly, you are obsessed. I like fan adoration as much as the next old fella, but this is spooky. What's next - flowers and chocolates? I know Valentine's Day is coming up next week...

I, myself, don't find the need to revisit what I've written. I know what I wrote in the past, and why I wrote it.

Again, if this bothers you, please stop visiting the site. I worry for your mental health.

2/07/2012 04:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike M said...

Every week, I hear another person say 'I don't trust these guys,' and it brings me great joy. The word is out and spreading.

2/07/2012 04:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Sad but true . said...

I am just following orders.

2/07/2012 07:04:00 PM  

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