My Letter was Changed, Leaving Readers in the Dark
Montecito Journal, thank you for printing the letter I wrote on the surveillance cameras placed at the Montecito Hot Springs and nearby.
Unfortunately, changes were made to what I submitted, greatly confusing the matter.
First, the quote from Lieutenant Ugo “Butch” Arnoldi’s February 21 email was altered. It’s not proper to alter quotes from people unless there’s a very good reason, and this reason should be spelled out. In his email Mr. Arnoldi didn’t use the evasive words “a concerned citizen” to describe the person he said “…was authorized to install these cameras…” Arnoldi named the camera installer and operator – Harry Rabin. Arnoldi CC’d his correspondence to different officials, including the camera operator, and me. If The Journal wishes to keep the camera operator’s identity a secret, can it please provide an explanation why?
I spoke at length with Mr. Rabin. He called me on February 23, 2023, and we spoke for almost 23 minutes. I’m not making this up – it’s on my phone record. I had contacted the organization Rabin works for, Heal the Ocean, about the cameras, and wasn’t expecting a call from him. The Journal removed my reference to this organization, and Rabin’s position in it. Rabin told me that when he placed the cameras, he was not acting on behalf of Heal the Ocean.
On the phone Rabin gave me some good information including the name of the official who told him to put “Public Works” and “Enforced by County Sheriff” on the tags. If the Journal will interview Rabin, this “concerned citizen” might tell the newspaper what he told me.
More solid proof came shortly after. On February 24, Rabin responding to an email I sent wrote: “Authorization was given by the Sheriff’s Dept. Our only role was installing them per request from Sheriff’s representative.” That quote was removed from my letter, making the next paragraph unintelligible because I start out by saying “It’s hard to believe the sheriff would do something so outside the legal process.” Rabin’s email also described what happened to the cameras – that too was removed from the letter.
The net result of all of this is that the reader is left in the dark with unanswered questions.
So who authorized the cameras? Who issued the written authorization required and the permits? Mr. Arnoldi stated in the above-mentioned email that the cameras were authorized. In the March 2, 2023, Edition of the Montecito Journal (Local News, page 8) Arnoldi says in the interview: “Unfortunately the cameras were placed with both the Sheriff’s Office logo and County of Santa Barbara Public Works logo…rather than display the USFS logo who authorized their placement (emphasis added)”.
But Daryl Hodges, Santa Barbara District Ranger for the U.S. Forest Service states when he’s interviewed: “Neither the Santa Barbara Ranger District, the Los Padres National Forest, nor I authorized or sanctioned the placement of the cameras” (the plot thickens).
Someone is lying.
Who paid Mr. Rabin to do the surveillance? Mr. Arnoldi says in the same interview, “…a concerned citizen and Montecito resident arrived on scene and contacted law enforcement on site…asked if Forest Service would be interested in them installing trail cameras on United States Forest land…The two Forest Service Law Enforcement Officers said that would be a welcomed proactive enforcement tool. The citizen was told that the cameras must be within the USFS Forest Boundary and not display any logos, etc.” Just what were they enforcing? Is there a bathing suit code?
Arnoldi’s quotes make him sound very involved. Just who are these forest service law enforcement officers who are encouraging cameras to be placed without the legally required identification tags? Who is this concerned citizen who was so willing to violate bathers’ privacy rights, putting them into the ranks of Stormy Daniels without the compensation? What’s happened to the footage of the people who were photographed without their knowledge? Was there remote viewing? A representative from the Sheriff’s department told me the cameras were returned to the photographer. Is this correct? The public has the right to answers, and the media is the best way to get them.
The quote from Ashlee Mayfield, Director of Montecito Trails Foundation, was also removed from my letter. On February 24, she sent me an email: “Re: cameras, I don’t know anyone in that cast of characters but would guarantee that the one homeowner on the west bank is involved.” Is there a secret voyeur? Her statement begs the question “What else has this person wearing the mask of concerned citizen stirred up?
The public has the right to know all the cast of characters involved in this illegal surveillance activity.
On March 5th, Commander Brad Welch from the Sheriff’s department emailed me: “Like I told you on the phone yesterday, this incident is being investigated on multiple fronts including internally.”
Meanwhile, local media can perform its traditional public duty by giving the public accurate information.
Editor’s Note: Concerning Bryan’s letter, yes, there was information removed and that should have been indicated. Both from Bryan’s forwarded communications and our own staff’s interviews, it became clear that the matter of who authorized the cameras and their tags was being investigated. As an open investigation, there was a choice to remove Harry Rabin’s name and the associated identifying information, with the decision to release Rabin’s name pending the outcome of the investigation.