Ryan Burns / Monday, March 6, 2017 @ 2:59 p.m. / Government, Marijuana and/or Cannabis
County Ends Employment of Cannabis Division Planner Following Conflict-of-Interest Inquiry
Allison Edrington’s job as a planner in Humboldt County’s Cannabis Services Division came to an abrupt end on Thursday, one day after the North Coast Journal published a column questioning whether she had a conflict on interest.
Edrington, a former reporter for the Times-Standard, has in recent years gotten deeply involved with the local cannabis industry, writing for online weed publications, offering media consultations to local growers and helping to organize events such as the Golden Tarp Awards. Last year she became the founding board president of the nonprofit Humboldt Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, a position she maintained while working for the county.
Both the North Coast Journal and the Outpost reached out to Edrington and Humboldt County Planning and Building Director John Ford to ask whether this posed a conflict of interest, since Edrington was being asked to process permits from some of the same businesses for which she advocates as board president of the Chamber.
“We have struggled with it a little bit, in all honesty,” Ford told Thadeus Greenson at the Journal. “But in the end, if she wants to focus her career objective on working as a planner within the planning department and providing the unbiased analysis that’s required, I believe she can do that.”
Evidently he changed his mind. This morning, Ford finally responded to the Outpost‘s inquiry, saying in an email, “Allison no longer works for the County of Humboldt.”
This afternoon Edrington stopped by the Outpost office to tell us more.
She explained that her position with the county was always billed as temporary, though she admitted that she didn’t expect it to end so soon, less than a month after she and several others were hired to help process the 2,314 permit applications that flooded the Planning and Building Department late last year.
“They hired several people,” Edrington said before adding, “I’m the only one that made the paper.”
Asked if she was given a reason for the abrupt termination, Edrington said she didn’t want to speak to county staff’s motivation, but that, “The conflict of interest was brought up.”
Edrington said she had disclosed her involvement with the Cannabis Chamber to the county, listing the position prominently on her resume. That position, board president, is unpaid, she said, explaining that the annual dues of $175 per company go toward filing fees and hosting events such as a monthly “mixer.” No one at the county ever asked her to step down from the position, she said.
As for her planner gig with the county, Edrington said it was a full-time job that entailed a lot of filing and marking off checklists, letting applicants know what they were missing. She said she was given no indication before Thursday that she would be let go.
“I would have liked it to last longer, but you know, such is the way of things,” she said.
We asked whether she believed her dual positions presented a conflict of interest.
“I’m not a lawyer, so I couldn’t specifically say where there’s a legal conflict,” she said. “I don’t believe there is. I always felt I was transparent.”
Ford did not immediately reply to a request for more information.
Asked if she believes she was terminated because of the Journal piece Edrington said, “I don’t know, honestly.” After a beat she added, “I don’t think there’s a scenario in which it helped.”
She’s now out looking for another job and said she has several promising leads. And she appears to harbor no ill will toward the county. She said she likes the people she worked with and is excited for them as they continue their work.
“I think they’re in a good position, with or without me,” she said.