‘Hearing officers’ chosen for medical marijuana appeal process | TheUnion.com

‘Hearing officers’ chosen for medical marijuana appeal process

The Nevada County board of supervisors approved five individuals to serve as mediators in cases where medical marijuana growers want to appeal an order from the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office to abate their grow operation.

The appointment will pave the way for the administrative process necessary to enforce the controversial medical marijuana ordinance, passed by the board of supervisors in May.

Under the ordinance, the NCSO is empowered to serve abatement notices requiring property owners growing medical marijuana to destroy their plants or alter the grow operation enough to be in compliance with the regulations.

If a property owner receives a “Notice to Abate” and feels the notice is in error, he has the right to file an appeal, which is heard by a “hearing officer.”

The five hearing officers appointed Tuesday included two names made pubic in advance of the meeting, Victor Ferrera, program manager for the Nevada County Office of Emergency Services, and Mike Sypnicki, program manager for the county Probation Department, and three names that were not.

Jeff Brown, director of the Health and Human Services Agency, was appointed along with Debra Corbett and Dave Ruderman, two attorneys.

The three individuals were selected for their experience with due process, administrative appeals and their independence from the sheriff’s office, said Alison Barratt-Green, attorney for Nevada County.

Attorney Jeffrey Lake, who represents the Americans for Safe Access Nevada County in ongoing litigation with the county over the medical marijuana nuisance ordinance, was sharply critical of the board’s decision, before and after the meeting.

He questioned the board regarding the application process, how the candidates were selected and whether the pubic was invited to provide input on the selection process. Lake also questioned the pace of the appointments, saying the board should not have appointed three people who were not presented to the public in advance of the meeting, during public comment.

“Either they are deliberately attempting to ambush us, or it is a dereliction of their duty to be prepared,” Lake said following the meeting. “It’s irresponsible to approve individuals that were not fully vetted.”

Supervisor Nate Beason bristled at the suggestion that the board should have included the public in the appointment process, saying governing boards at every level of government have discretion with appointments.

He further stated the county used the template formed in other similar administrative hearing scenarios throughout the county government, including code compliance.

“I am very comfortable with this,” Beason said.

Supervisor Terry Lamphier abstained from voting on the issue, citing dissatisfaction with the answers provided regarding the funding of the appeals process, the qualifications established for selection of hearing officers and how the process will function.

NCSO Under-Sheriff Joe Salivar said deputies have issued 27 abatement notices since the ordinance took effect in May. Of the individuals served, 11 have filed an appeal.

The ordinance stipulates an appeal must be heard within 30 days of being filed, so the county would like to begin the hearing process by the end of September, Salivar said.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4239.

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