City of South Lake Tahoe receives additional appeals of cannabis selection process | TahoeDailyTribune.com

City of South Lake Tahoe receives additional appeals of cannabis selection process

FILE - In this July 1, 2017 file photo, a person buys marijuana at the Essence cannabis dispensary in Las Vegas.
AP Photo/John Locher, File

The city of South Lake Tahoe received two additional appeals contesting the outcome of a process for evaluating cannabis business applications.

However, it is uncertain if one of the appeals will be considered.

The city received an appeal from Have A Heart, which finished fourth in the application scoring process, after 5 p.m. Friday.

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Applicants for a retail cannabis store who scored outside the top three — the city’s regulations allow for three new retail stores — had five business days to submit their appeal. That put the deadline at 5 p.m.

The city attorney and city clerk will meet Monday to determine whether the appeal will be accepted, according to Chris Fiore, communications manager for the city.

Earlier in the day the city received an appeal from Robert Fehskens and Ed Pillsbury. Their business, South Tahoe Cannabis, scored 15th out of 18.

The appeal takes issue with both the scores and scoring process, which involved five different reviewers scoring each applicant on numerous different aspects. The average of the five reviews amounted to the final score.

South Tahoe Cannabis received a 92, 85, 73.5, 72 and 45 for an average of 73.5.

In the appeal, Fehskens states that the scorers who assigned the three low scores failed to “understand or connect the critical parts of the application …”

The appeal then details areas where it believed some of the scorers erred in their assessment.

Further, Fehskens argues there should have been a final review board to ensure consistency and fairness in the scoring.

“To that point, there is a sense in the community (shared by us) that such inconsistency in scores suggest a lack of equality and fairness in the process,” the appeal states.

The two appeals received Friday brings the overall total to three.

MedMen, a Canadian cannabis business with operations in the U.S., filed an appeal that was received on Thursday.

John Runnels, whose business The New Green Deal scored last with 37 points says he also attempted to file an appeal. He claims he submitted everything as required by the ordinance and was told after the fact that he had to pay a $323 fee, which he refused to pay.

The appeal fee is not unique to cannabis — it applies to other appeals, such as those for vacation home rental violations, and is intended to cover the cost of staff time and resources.

Contrary to Runnels’ telling of events, the city says he submitted an incomplete appeal that lacked basic details, such as contact information, Fiore told the Tribune.

The city did everything it could to help Runnels, including going as far as looking up Runnels contact information and sending City Clerk Susan Blankenship to his business to try and help him complete the appeal. He refused to sign the necessary paperwork and pay the fee, Fiore said.

Runnels told the Tribune that if the appeal is not accepted, he will consult with his attorney and likely take legal action.

Under South Lake Tahoe’s appeal process, the city manager will designate a hearing officer to review the appeals and promptly initiate an investigation to determine if the city followed the selection process, and if the applicants were honest in their applications.

The hearing officer can make various recommendations based on the outcome of the investigation.

The hearing officer is not meant to second-guess staff or the scoring committee with regard to the strengths or weaknesses of the applications.