Calaveras County officials have contested a claim made by the Calaveras County Auditor-Controller that the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office misspent application fees paid by cannabis growers.

The fee was part of the county’s May 2016 Cannabis Urgency Ordinance.

In a press release, County Administrative Officer Timothy Lutz said, “The county believes the cannabis regulatory program fee fund has properly been used to fund the regulatory program costs,” the press release said.

The release also added that the county is continuing “to update and formalize processes and procedures” for the 2016 Cannabis Urgency Ordinance.

Calaveras County Auditor-Controller Rebecca Callen could not be reached for comment. An employee at the Calaveras County Auditor Office said that she was expected to be out of the office until next week.

Callen claimed that the Sheriff’s Office used the fee funds to pay for criminal investigations into the illegal marijuana grow operations, including arresting and booking suspects.

In 2016, Calaveras County took in about $3.7 million dollars from 737 marijuana cultivators seeking to grow under the auspices of the regulatory ordinance.

The fee money was designated for administrative costs related to the ordinance, such as regulatory inspections, background checks for the applicants or other payments associated with the registration process.

The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors held a closed discussion that discussed the allegations during their board meeting Tuesday night, said District 3 Supervisor Michael Oliveira, but could not reveal the content of that meeting.

Oliveira was not sure if the board would take action on the issue at the next meeting, but said if the board did the agenda item would be out very soon to “allow for the public to be educated about what this issue is really about.”

The agenda said the closed session concerned a “conference with legal counsel” and acknowledged both “anticipated litigation” and “significant exposure to litigation.”

The fees funded six deputies, two sheriff service technicians, and one sergeant at the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office for a total cost of $754,459.

Other expenditures from the grower registration included $106,352 for sheriff’s patrol services and supplies and $346,845 for sheriff’s equipment and $22,321 that included the purchase of ballistic vests and tactical gun sights and a refund for already-purchased tactical gear.

Calaveras County Sheriff Rick DiBasilio declined to comment but said he was drafting a press release on Wednesday.

Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at (209) 588-4526 or gricapito@uniondemocrat.com . Follow him on Twitter @gsepinsonora.

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