Our story is set in the sleepy, sunny little Hamlet of Rio Dell where pretty much nothing exciting happens. Like, ever. (Unless you count the delicious pizza pies they whip up at the Pizza Factory – we can’t get enough of them.)
Eager to capitalize on the burgeoning potential of marijuana related entrepreneurship in Humboldt County, Rio Dell has wisely moved to get some sort of policy governing cultivation, manufacturing, and laboratory testing of marijuana products.
Now, enter Dennis Wendt – of Dennis Wendt Construction – with a plan to develop a mega hash lab in Rio Dell that would fall under the City’s marijuana ordinances. THC assumes that Wendt’s proposal is a little more sophisticated – and less dangerous – than the butane hash labs blowing up all over the County. Such a project must eventually go before the Rio Dell Planning Commission – but first they have to develop the guidelines to govern such an endeavor.
Now, Wendt apparently hasn’t made himself overly popular these days (search “Wendt” on Humboldt County Craigslist’s “rants and raves” section – we dare you!), but THC doesn’t know of the reasons behind that. What we do know about is the potentially inappropriate relationship he has with Rio Dell’s Community Development Director, Kevin Caldwell.
It’s THC’s understanding that Caldwell lobbied, and lobbied hard, for the City of Rio Dell to allow the type of projects that Dennis Wendt envisions. As the Community Development Director, THC believes it’s not necessarily his place to push for things in that manner.
But the part of this tale that really stinks is that we’re led to believe that Caldwell also moonlights as a consultant for Dennis Wendt’s business outside of his job as Community Development Director. Last we checked on the scale of conflict of interest, that is a super big no-no. (Of course, there seems to be a lot of that in Humboldt County recently.)
Now, we’ve done our best to corroborate the claims against Wendt and Caldwell’s collusion, but the record-keeping for the Rio Dell Planning Commission is, uh, lacking. Lacking as in non-existent prior to February of 2016, as evidenced by AccessHumboldt’s video archive. The two recent Rio Dell Planning Commission meetings which focus on pot are available – but only one has working audio, and THC is told that the questionable lobbying tactics employed by Caldwell took place some time in January. (Our guess is the January 14th P.C. meeting.)
If true, this is a troubling situation for a number of reasons, but most importantly because there’s just no way in hell it’s okay for Caldwell and Wendt to be working together on a project that Caldwell has a significant role in getting approved.
So, we put it to you, good readers of THC, to tell us anything you may know about the situation. And be assured that we’ll keep a closer eye on ol’ Rio Dell in the future.