CALIFORNIA CITY — Three public hearings for zone changes for a General Plan Amendment were tabled at a City Council meeting Tuesday after a lawsuit naming three of the councilmembers came forward.
During the first public hearing, Councilmember Ronald Smith addressed the Council that he would abstain from any votes or decisions involved with cannabis after Mayor Pro Tem Donald Parris, Councilmember Will Smith, City Manager Anna Linn and himself were named in a lawsuit from cannabis delivery business Grandma’s Stash.
“I would have voted yes on this [public hearing], but I’m not gonna put my neck on the line if I do not know I am going to be protected,” Ronald Smith said. “As a Councilman, I have the right with opinion or conscience, I have the right to vote yes or no.”
The lawsuit, filed on Sept. 10 with the Kern County Superior Court, accuses the councilmembers of taking bribes from Rick Jones, owner of Fast Response Security and Greenstone Delivery/California City Supply, to deny Grandma’s Stash permit renewal. Jones is also named as a co-defendant in the lawsuit.
“Personally, I think the complaints being referenced are ridiculous, but objectively as the City Attorney I have to be cautious,” City Attorney Baron Bettenhausen said at the meeting.
During a June 23 City Council meeting, Grandma’s Stash and two other businesses were denied in a 3-2 vote in an appeal to renew their permit.
The three councilmembers named in the lawsuit voted against the permit.
In the recent City Council meeting, the public hearings for the zone changes would rezone three lots along California City Boulevard from agricultural zones to cannabis cultivation sites.
The Planning Commission recommended all three zone changes be rolled up into one General Plan Amendment because the City can only make four amendments to the General Plan in one calendar year.
Those items have been tabled to the Nov. 10 City Council meeting after the City Attorney fully reviews the complaint against the City and those named in the lawsuit.
The first hearing for the lawsuit is scheduled for Jan. 11, at Kern County Superior Court Bakersfield and will be presided by Judge David R. Lampe.