SAGUACHE — Saguache Sheriff Dan Warwick has forwarded a recommendation to district attorney Robert Willett that charges of official misconduct, a class two misdemeanor, be filed against Moffat Mayor Patricia Reigel.
There has been ongoing contention among Moffat town officials and marijuana business owners in the town — and conflicting reports by citizens — regarding the actions of the town’s mayor and code enforcement officials in a code enforcement matter that occurred May 18.
Reigel and the town code enforcement officer are accused of improperly removing items from a local marijuana operation. They accompanied an individual, Garegin Pogosyan (aka “Po”), who had previously worked for the owner (Zengxi Gao) and claimed he was the rightful owner of certain property left at the grow.
Gao’s operation was shut down by the Town of Moffat and is not operational per the State since December, allegedly after some marijuana could not be accounted for at the facility. Pogosyan was an employee of Gao’s at the time and after the shutdown could not collect his belongings.
According to a report received from a representative of the marijuana business, Reigel and the town’s compliance team entered the property “under the auspices of doing a routine inspection.” Sheriff Dan Warwick stated last month that Reigel and her team appear to have become involved in a matter that should have remained between an employee of the grow and his employer.
Video footage from the grower’s report allegedly shows the town’s two compliance officers, paid by the Town to assist in marijuana Enforcement Division inspections and enforcement, hauling items off the property in their own vehicles.
“Reigel and her compliance officers went into a grow to collect the property of a man who worked for the grow,” Warwick explained during an interview last month. “The mayor and the code enforcement person [conducted it as] a compliance check. The guy who had a key to the place allowed them in. The mayor thought she had the authority to make them give up all these things.
“There is a possible question of judgment here,” Warwick continued. “Reigel shouldn’t have gotten herself involved — the parties should have settled it themselves.”
Po told Warwick that May 18, “he was allowed onto the property to collect the items that he stated were his and the current lessee did not have any problems with this being done and even pointed items out and asked Po if the item was Po’s. Po told me that all seemed OK but later he began getting called about him taking the items he took.
“Po said that he was told he was going to be arrested for taking the items and Po told me that if he needed to return the items he would. I was unaware of any complaints regarding this matter and told Po that as long as the person managing the property told him to take the items, I did not see the issue.”
Some say that Po merely went to collect his things with the town officials for security purposes; the current lessee, Matt Litrenta, told Warwick he had made it clear to Po before May 18 that Po needed to go and get any property that belonged to him. According to Warwick, Litrenta “even puts in his statement that Po went through the appropriate channels and communicated with the landowners. Warwick continues in his report:
“Matt says that he was approached by Dan Zeck (compliance officer for the Town of Moffat) while he was at 215 Lincoln Ave. Matt said that Zeck explained that the Mayor (Patricia Reigel) wanted to speak to someone regarding the property at 714 Mayor Patricia Reigel Blvd (MPRB). Matt said that the Mayor was parked in her car also there at 215 Lincoln Ave.
“He also said that he went over to the Mayor’s car and asked if she needed to get into the property. Matt said that the Mayor responded with something that Matt considered to be acknowledgement of yes. Matt says that he asked if it was regarding cannabis waste [at the site] that they had disposed of several days before and received a mutter that he again took as a yes response from the Mayor.
When he arrived at the grow May 18 to meet Po, Matt continued, “He [Matt] opened the gate with the Mayor standing beside him. Matt said that seconds later Dan Zeck, compliance officer for the Town of Moffat, opened the gate completely and several people walked in including Po, Zeck, a Mr. Ernie Gonzales, and a Mrs. Jen Thomas. Matt said that Po told him he was there to get his lights, which was apparently communicated to the property owner.
“Po also mentioned to Matt that he was also there to get an unassembled greenhouse. Matt said that he was suspicious about this and called his landlord Michael Biggio. Matt said that since the Mayor and members of the Canna Valley Consulting were there with Po he felt that whatever they were doing was authorized and mandated so Matt left to take care of other business that he needed to do.
“Matt said that after about an hour had passed, he was contacted by Biggio and the lights and cam filters were all that the property owner had given permission to Po to take. Matt said that he and Biggio went to the property to stop them from taking anything that was not authorized but that everything was already done, and Po was leaving the property.”
Later a date was set for Biggio and Litrenta to meet with Po to accept some returned items, but Po was a no show. The following is taken verbatim form the conclusion of Sheriff Warwick’s report.
“[Litrenta] said that a meeting was scheduled for May 21 to discuss what had occurred. He stayed in his vehicle [during the meeting] and did not get in on the conversation. The meeting was between Biggio, a Mrs. Whitney Justice who also is a lessee on the property, Mayor Reigel, Po and Gonzales. The meeting did not resolve any of the issues and Deputy Clark was dispatched to the location after the meeting had ended.
“I received a copy of a letter that was given to Matt, signed by Mayor Patricia Reigel that it is her directive, with the permission of Matt for Garegin Pogosyan (Po) to enter the property located at 714 Mayor Patricia Reigel Blvd. to gather personal property. This letter also states that Po’s property has been on the premises for over five months and the town’s investigation has been completed and Po is now allowed to remove the property.
It is unknown what investigation is being referred to.
“I also received a statement from Zengxi Gao, the owner of 714 Mayor Patricia Reigel Blvd. The statement says that the items taken from his property located at 714 Mayor Patricia Reigel Blvd. was taken without his permission. Gao also said the items were his and did not belong to Po. Gao priced the taken items at $43,400.
“Gao also provided me with a letter that he had sent to, James Burack who apparently is someone with the State Marijuana Enforcement Division. In the letter Gao states that Mayor Reigel had permission from someone ‘high up’ in the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division that authorized her to take the items from Gao’s property. This letter is asking Burack who authorized the items to be taken.
“July 27, I called to speak to someone from the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division but was unable to reach anyone that would explain that they would not give permission for someone to remove property and that they have no authority to do that.”
Following this discussion. Warwick then submitted his recommendation to pursue charges against Reigel to district attorney Willett.