FPPC rejects Crawford complaint

March 17, 2010

The California Fair Political Practices Committee  (FPPC) has rejected a complaint alleging a conflict of interest involving a San Luis Obispo County Parks Commissioner.

The complaint, filed by Santa Margarita blogger Ron Crawford, argued that Parks Commissioner Pandora Nash-Karner of Los Osos is using her position to steer a $20 million project to a company where her husband, Gary Karner, serves as “Managing Principal and Senior Project Manager.”

At issue is the San Luis Obispo Botanical Gardens, where Nash-Karner sits on the board of directors. The facility plans a $20 million expansion and the sole design proposal received so far comes from the SWA Group. Crawford argued unsuccessfully that the arrangement between spouses creates a conflict of interest.

A letter from the FPPC to Crawford announced that the matter was being closed “without further action.” The letter further indicated that the Botanical Gardens, which sits on county property, was not subject to FPPC overview since it is not a public agency.

Crawford’s original complaint and his detailed response to the FPPC decision can be read here.

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Hello CCN,

Thank you for mentioning my press release.

And, just to be clear (Mythbuster)… I wrote and issued that press release (I kinda wish CCN had made that clear…er).

That press release is from me, because the reason the FPPC gave for “rejecting” my complaint made no sense whatsoever, and I wanted to generate discussion.

It looks like it might have worked. A-boo-yeah.

I just went and posted my entire press release at SewerWatch. If you’re interested, give it a read. It’s funny.

So, I guess the message(s) from my boyz at the FPPC is clear:

If you want to start a political “coalition,” and then collect contributions, and then hire your own business, and then pay yourself with those contributions — basically just using the political system to manufacture work for yourself… go right ahead.

If you want to use your influence as a government official to steer work to your spouse’s business… not a problem.

(Wow. The ripples of “bait and switchy” are like tsunamis.)

Wanna hear a fun little anecdote involving my story?

My favorite part of my investigation, is how, when I called Liz Scott-Graham, executive director of the SLO Botanical Garden (and, yes, it was me that put all of that together [I know, I know, I’m the bad guy]) to find out if they had received any proposals on their $20 million expansion, and she told me, “Yes, one,” I already knew to ask, “Was it the SWA Group?,” because that’s the EXACT same scam the Karner’s used to start the LOCSD in 1998, as I first exposed at this link:


Think about that. I already knew to ask if it was the SWA Group. Think… about… that.

(And notice how, in ALL of this, I didn’t mention the word “sewer” once… other than my blog’s name. A-boo-yeah(er))

Um … what?

It’s important to note that the FPPC ruling is based on a technicality — the Botanical Garden is not a public agency. It does not say that what Pandora has done is OK.

Pandora Nash-Karner did the same thing in the Los Osos sewer fight, using her position to “win” a contract worth tens of thousands of dollars more than normal compensation for designing newsletters espousing the sewer location in the middle of town.

I don’t know her but saw some of the emails she fired off in defense of herself. Nasty and mean stuff, shockingly so. I can’t believe her colleagues at the BG are aware of that side of her.

Where was the RFP posted? Why only one proposal? Something is wrong here and deserves scrutiny. The Board had better be thorough. Otherwise, this will come back to bite the Botanical Garden in the butt, just as it did during the sewer fiasco.

The difference of course is that the Botanical Garden is member-supported. Their grandiose building scheme as described by Richard Schmidt in New Times a few months ago has lost them my support.

The SLO Botanical Garden Board would be wise to take a hard look at Pandora Nash-Karner and any sweetheart deals she may have cooked up with her husband’s company.

Wonder if we will hear anything about this on that Sewerwatch blog? Maybe I should post this link? Naw, the link will just be removed by Ron Crawford.