Modesto City Councilmember Kristi Ah You said Thursday that the $100,000 donation to her campaign for mayor came about, “Because I was the only one who listened and tried to help,” during a dispute between the Modesto Police Department, City Hall, and a co-owner of Phenos Cannabis Dispensary on McHenry Avenue in Modesto. The contribution is listed under the name of Angilbert Sarkis, of Oakdale, Co-owner, Phenos.
Ah You said she was contacted by Phenos personnel last week regarding complaints about police in unmarked cars stopping customers and telling them Phenos was out of compliance with regulations for cannabis sales. Rumors have circulated that the owners of Phenos want Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll fired.
Chief Carroll said on Thursday afternoon that, “Based on the information from officers at the scene, they did not stop customers. There was no formal complaint filed even though I suggested that would be the course of action if there was an issue that needed to be dealt with. The Police Department has no interest in impacting businesses in our city and is not and has not singled out Phenos.”
Ah You said that even if rumors that the owners of Phenos want Chief Carroll fired were true, “I couldn’t do that. The rules wouldn’t allow it. And anyway, I don’t think he’s doing a bad job.”
Ah You said that people at Phenos were also upset that they hadn’t been notified that authorities from the city* were coming to the dispensary for a routine inspection. Apparently city staff had emailed notification of the state visit to the wrong business.
“All that was needed was a little common courtesy and respect,” said Ah You. “The people at Phenos felt they were being targeted and harassed. When I called City Hall, they said they didn’t feel a need to apologize. These kinds of things happen and then lawyers get involved when there’s no need for that.”
“I think this particular industry is not treated the same as other businesses. Phenos is one of the biggest contributors to the City’s tax base. People at City Hall need to slow down and apologize when they’re wrong. Most of the times these things escalate and lawyers get involved because of egos,” said Ah You.
“They found out I was running for mayor and asked what I needed. I said $100,000. I couldn’t believe it when I got the donation. They said it was because I was the only one who listened and tried to help.”
Ah You said that Phenos deserves to be treated like any other business. “When they weren’t properly notified of the inspection because of the city’s error, the city should have apologized,” she said. “That’s all it would have taken to deescalate the situation.”
Ah You said if candidates couldn’t accept donations, “Only rich people would be able to run for office using self-donations.” She said that Modesto Mayor Ted Brandvold had spent $200,000 during his winning campaign in 2016.
“It costs $40,000 just to send out one mailer,” said Ah You. “Some candidates are hiring consultants from outside the region. I was provided with an opportunity and I took it.”
A security staff member at Phenos said on Thursday morning that police had, “been here a lot.” While he was talking there was a steady stream of customers entering and exiting the dispensary. There were over twenty cars in the parking lot. No police were in sight.
*An earlier, incorrect version of this sentence, read “authorities from the state.”