William Wagener Sues Santa Barbara and Santa Maria County

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Outspoken TV host files suit against city, county By Jasmine Marshall — Staff Writer 8/22/03 An outspoken local television host has filed a lawsuit against the city of Santa Maria, Santa Barbara County and former police chief John Sterling alleging violations of his civil rights. William “B.J.” Wagener has filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in Santa Maria, alleging that city and county officials — along with officials in Door County, Wis.. — violated his civil rights by arresting and jailing him shortly before the March 2002 primary election. He is seeking unspecified monetary damages. Wagener produces and hosts the public-access television show “On Second Thought.” He is also a member of a group currently attempting to recall the Santa Maria City Council, and has fought against plans to add fluoride to the city’s water supply. The County Counsel’s office has not been served with the lawsuit, according to Steve Underwood, chief assistant to the county counsel. City Attorney Art Montandon expressed confidence the city would prevail in the case, which he called “unfounded.” At the time of the arrest, Wagener was running for 5th District County Supervisor against then-mayor Joe Centeno and Jeanne Sparks, an assistant to former Supervisor Tom Urbanske. Wagener ultimately placed a distant third in the election, which was won by Centeno. A warrant for Wagener’s arrest was issued by officials in Wisconsin five days before the election, on charges of violating the terms of his probation in connection with felony bail jumping. As a convicted felon, Wagener had no right to run for public office, Wisconsin authorities asserted . The charges against Wagner were ultimately dropped, and he was released from Santa Barbara County Jail on March 1, 2002. Wagener was convicted in a jury trail held in January of 1998 in the Kewaunee County Wisconsin Circuit Court, for violation of a restraining order, according to the statements of fact in his lawsuit. James C. Holland, the Ventura attorney representing Wagener, argued in his brief to the court that Wisconsin law had no bearing of his client’s right to vote or run as a candidate in a political election. Holland also argues that Wagener’s probation supervision had been transferred to Santa Barbara County in 1998. Holland argues that his client was “arrested and incarcerated, and defamed and ridiculed in the local media in order to destroy his campaign for public office…” The lawsuit alleges that former police chief Sterling “had actual, advance knowledge of the plan by other defendants to falsely arrest, inaccurate and violate (Wagener’s) California and Federal civil rights.” Holland said Thursday “it’s a fair characterization to say there was a plan (among the defendants) in advance of (the arrest).” Wagener’s lawsuit alleges a motive was “all to the benefit of his political opponent” — Centeno. The lawsuit also alleges that a Santa Maria Police Officer, Greg Carroll, attempted to steal $100 in cash from Wagener, which he had in possession at the time of his arrest. Wagener claims Carrol “broke and tampered with the seal placed upon the bag containing the plaintiff’s belongings, in an effort to cover up and mask … the proof of his earlier misconduct.” Staff writer Jasmine Marshall can be reached by e-mail at jmarshall@pulitzer.net :nav Source: http://www.lompocrecord.com/articles/2003/08/24/news/news13.txt

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