The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports
Although some of the city’s choices were found to be ‘concerning’ and ‘odd,’ the competition for 6 retail licenses was not unfair, judge rules
El Monte will not need to award a cannabis license to an applicant that alleged it failed to secure one due to arbitrary and potentially corrupt decisions by city officials during the ranking of prospective dispensaries in 2020, according to a court ruling.
Though Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James Chalfant felt some of the city’s choices were “concerning” and “odd,” he was not sufficiently swayed that the applicant, FEAH LLC, was treated unfairly.
“Specifically, FEAH does not show that the city’s actions in processing and scoring the applications were intended to, or did, benefit the winning applicants,” Chalfant wrote. “Some of the cited actions benefited some applicants and other actions benefited others.”
El Monte’s selection of the six winners of retail cannabis licenses in September 2020 drew more than half a dozen lawsuits, most of which have since been resolved. FEAH LLC, which ultimately ranked seventh, sued almost immediately after the rankings became public, alleging the city violated its duty by not following its own guidelines for the scoring process and by grading certain sections arbitrarily. The company alleged the city was biased toward applicants who had pledged hefty donations both to city coffers and to elected officials.
Their lawsuit asked the courts to either force a do-over, or to give FEAH a license.
In his ruling, Chalfant acknowledged there were “threads of evidence that could support a disparate treatment claim,” though he felt FEAH failed to provide sufficient proof to back up that argument.
Assistant City Attorney Lloyd Pilchen applauded the decision in a statement.
“The City is pleased that the court saw beyond the petitioner’s fanciful allegations and issued a thorough, well-reasoned ruling,” Pilchen stated. “The decision recognizes that City Staff properly exercised discretion in their decisions, and the outcome reflected a fair process.”
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