City Councilman Victor Gordo has asked the Pasadena City Prosecutor to review a series of emails from an illegal marijuana operator who the Councilman believes sought his help on enforcement matters “in a way that made me very, very uncomfortable.”
Gordo said the emails from Shaun Szameit, operator of the shuttered Golden State Collective, appeared to ask the Councilman to intervene with city officials who had shut down the operator’s illegal business after issuing 21 zoning violations, assessing $25,800 in fines, filing criminal charges and fighting a civil suit the operator brought to overturn Measure CC.
“I believed Mr. Szameit was asking me to do something that I will not do,” said Gordo. “While I support the sale of legal cannabis, I will not allow the tentacles of marijuana operators who openly violate our laws to come into our City and our local government.”
Gordo emphasized his concerns about the emails “reflect my personal view. It appeared to me that Shaun Szameit was offering something of value in exchange for assisting him.
“The public has a right to know and see for themselves precisely what Mr. Szameit was saying in these communications, which I believed to be questionable, at best,” he said. “Therefore, I am releasing the emails and am asking city authorities to determine if, in fact, my gut instinct was correct. I have refused to meet with Mr. Szameit and will continue do so.”
In particular, the Councilman singled out an email Szameit sent on Jan. 28, a month after police raided and closed down his store on North Mentor Avenue. Szameit and his employees were charged with 18 criminal counts of unpermitted sales, illegal possession of marijuana and operating a public nuisance.
The email says: “Please as my council member speak with me and help me resolve my issues. Please give me a chance to clear my name. I am not asking you to discuss pending litigation, I am asking for your help. I will help anyone in this city and I want to build your supporters. I am not saying you need it however I believe we could do great things in District 5. I want to build the community, these are not just words I mean it. I will prove it with action.”
Just hours before Szameit sent the email to the Councilman, some District 5 residents received an anonymous email containing a petition seeking to recall Councilman Gordo and even offering lawn signs.
Gordo said days after those phone calls, signature-gatherers began circulating petitions in District 5 neighborhoods, and an attorney associated with Szameit filed paperwork for a recall petition to remove the Councilman. According to a spokesperson for Gordo, wording on the paperwork mirrored that used in emails sent Jan. 28 to District 5 constituents. Szameit has since emerged as a spokesman for what the operator claims is a broad-based effort, which Gordo called “a farce.”
Following is a chronology of key emails that Gordo turned over to City Attorney-Prosecutor Michelle Bagneris:
- March 18, 2018. Gordo leads Council efforts to draft language for Measure CC, a ballot initiative to repeal the city’s ban on cannabis businesses. He insists on language the disqualifies illegal pot shop operators, such as Szameit, from receiving new cannabis business licenses if the measure passes – language the Council approves. Szameit supports the ordinance but publicly calls for his operation to be grandfathered in. Szameit emails Gordo: “I am requesting a conversation with you. I own property in your district and will be a part of many developments over the years in Pasadena and even larger developments in many of the San Gabriel Valley cities.”
- June 5, 2018. Pasadena voters vote 2-1 to pass Measure CC, which repeals the ban on marijuana operations and gives the City Council discretionary power to award legitimate cannabis business licenses.
- Aug. 9, 2018. Szameit emails asking for “20 minutes of your time to explain my side ….”
- Oct. 17, 2018. Szameit approaches Gordo at a District 5 community meeting to ask for a private meeting. Gordo tentatively agrees but, upon learning of Szameit’s record of zoning violations and litigation, later poses as a condition that the operator not discuss the cannabis ordinance or his lawsuit against the City.
- Dec. 12, 2018. Szameit texts during the police raid of Golden State: “…I expect as my councilman for you to give me a conversation. Why can all your colleagues and you cannot…?”
- Dec. 17, 2018. As the Council prepares to discuss his lawsuit in closed session, Szameit emails: “Do you have the ability to meet with me today to discuss before going to closed session? I will go anywhere. I feel there is more information that could help in the decision making and bring light to certain aspects.”(Gordo – who missed the closed-session discussion and Council meeting because of a family emergency – says that email “crossed a line. It was a highly inappropriate effort to influence confidential Council discussions. From that point on, I decided not to meet with Mr. Szameit. It was obvious he could not be trusted to avoid the matters I would not discuss.”)
- Jan. 15, 2019. Szameit emails: “I urge you to be compelled to put aside 15 minutes to have a cup of coffee and discuss the future direction of the city of Pasadena. This is going too far and there is absolutely no excuse to completely ignore a request from your constituent to meet for years. This is unprofessional and condescending….”
- Jan. 28, 2019. A recall of Councilman Gordo (which Szameit now takes credit for) is initiated. District 5 residents receive anonymous emails with a petition to remove Gordo.
- Jan. 28, 2019. Szameit emails just a few hours after recall emails are sent: “Please as my council member speak with me and help me resolve my issues…. I am not asking you to discuss pending litigation, I am asking for your help. I will help anyone in this city and I want to build your supporters….” (At this point in time, Mr. Szameit’s issues involve 18 criminal charges against him and his employees, 21 code violations, more than $25,000 in fines and litigation against the City.)
- Feb. 1, 2019. Signature-gatherers go door-to-door in District 5 with copies of the recall petition. One signature gatherer knocks on Gordo’s door but runs away when the Councilman tries to take a photo of the petition. Among the reasons for the recall: Gordo’s position on cannabis regulation.
- Feb. 8, 2019. Bradley Hertz, a San Francisco attorney who has worked with Szameit in the past, files official paperwork for the recall with the City Clerk’s office. Szameit emerges as recall spokesperson.
Gordo made clear that Szameit, who recently moved into East Pasadena, is not a District 5 constituent, as the operator claims. The Councilman also said that he does not recognize Szameit’s shuttered shop, which is located in District 5, as a legitimate business.