Looking for transparency in Los Osos

March 26, 2010
By PIPER REILLYOn Friday, March 26th, the Tribune ran a front page article entitled “Potential Sewer Firm Under Fire,”  in which County Public Works director Paavo Ogren, in charge of the Los Osos Wastewater Project, stated that he was aware of the New Orleans report.

The common points between Cape Coral, New Orleans and the 2005 Los Osos contract, as well as the current LOWWP shortlist proposal, are contract procurement and costs issues.

The Tribune article stated that MWH spokesperson, “VanderLaan pointed out that the city of New Orleans has signed an amendment to the contract, since the Inspector General’s report became public.”

This amendment, in essence, will force MWH to do their job but once that is defined what comes next is uncertain. On March 19, 2010, David Hammer of The Times Picayune reported:

“The IG’s draft report also recommends that Mayor Nagin officials “develop contract terms that protect the city’s interests and provide incentives for containing costs.” The recent amendment appears to take steps toward that goal by giving the city and MWH 30 days to agree on performance goals, which may cover such things as quality of work, timeliness, efficiency and cost containment. By the time those goals are set, however, there may be only two months left on the contract.”

In Los Osos, we were promised, as part of the 218 engineer’s report which lead up to the 218 vote, a head-to-head comparison of Step and Gravity collection through the design build phase.  Early in 2009 Supervisor Gibson breached that contract by removing STEP from the process.  STEP contractors, originally involved in this process, work according to performance standards. Here, the requirements of a project are explained and then the engineering firm designs a system to meet those needs. Cost and time constraints are fixed.

This type of protocol, which ensures work is completed reasonably, seems to be something which MWH must be forced into after they enter contracts through “backdoors” instead of a fair competitive bidding process.

In 2006, it was reported from New Orleans that “The fiscal report also claims that city officials used “illegal contracting methodology” in inking agreements worth more than $92 million with two national firms, the Shaw Group and MWH. It says the deal with MWH tied profits to costs, an arrangement that violates federal rules because it provides no incentive to keep costs low.”

Also 2006, in Cape Coral, Florida,  Kellog Brown & Root, the Texas-based subsidiary of Halliburton, Co., was the original manager of the Cape utility project but assigned its contract to MWH Constructors.  Issues arose which brought about a forensic audit done by Kessler International who found  irregularities and over payments. The audit was refuted by MWH who refused to hand over vital information so the audit was incomplete. MWH has recently hired its own auditors to exonerate themselves.

In 2005, when Los Osos questioned MWH’s accounting practices, the MWH local offices were broken into and all of the Los Osos records were stolen.  Allegedly they were held in one sole location, the project manager’s laptop, which happened to be the only thing stolen.  Around the same time, two integrally involved, government officials’ hard drives were wiped clean.

MWH are also currently heading the heavily flawed, Morro Bay/Cayucos project. The project manager of the 2005, failed, MWH Los Osos Wastewater Project (whose lap top was “stolen”) is now the head of the Morro Bay/Cayucos Wastewater Project, the recent contract of which was questionably procured.

None of this information is new to the County. Paavo Ogren and Supervisor Gibson are fully aware of these issues, yet MWH is still consistently used in San Luis Obispo County.

Since the passage of the 218 vote, the County has spared no expense. Originally anticipated to cost $2 million in order for LOWWP to get on the table, the County has spent $7.25 million and counting. The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board made it very clear to the County, in writing, that they should act in an expeditious manner and compare those projects already looked at.  This would mean comparing the Ripley STEP proposal with the MWH gravity plan, but that has not happened.

There has been no transparency of government and open communication with the community as the County originally promised–only obfuscation of the issues.  This can be seen in the more than 3,000 page Environmental Impact Report, (CEQA law states that the EIR should be concise and readable by the average person), to the inability for appellants, no less the public, to garner information regarding the upcoming Coastal Commission hearing.

The County is using our money against us to insure that MWH gets their contracts.  If we are the obstructionists that the County claims, then why did the Planning Commission and Coastal Commission both feel that our comments, ignored by the County, are actually valid?

Piper Reilly is a member of Surfrider, Los Osos Sustainability Group and a Prohibition Zone home owner in Los Osos.

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In 2005 MWH contributed $10,000 to Pandora Nash-Karner’s “Save The Dream” party in Los Osos to defeat the recall of three board members jamming the notorious Tri-W midtown project down the throats of Prohibition Zone homeowners. They failed.

In 2006 Nash-Karner, a close friend and supporter of then-Supervisorial candidate Bruce Gibson, contributed to his campaign. Did any of MWH’s donation to Nash-Karner find its way into Gibson’s campaign treasure chest? (Gibson would name Nash-Karner Parks Commissioner — “parks” as in her still-wished-for “Pandora Park” surrounding her pet Tri-W project site.) Nash-Karner had at one time proposed herself as a liaison between MWH and the LOCSD — for a fee of almost $1 million — including about $200,000 for her husband to landscape the park. The LOCSD declined the offer.

In April 2009, Gibson, now 2nd District Supervisor Gibson and steely ramrod for the Los Osos Wastewater Project, eliminated any and all cheaper alternatives to costly MWH gravity technology, clearing the way for the most expensive gravity collection system the officially disadvantaged community of Los Osos could never afford — basically attacking Los Osos PZ homeowners with their own money, since they are the ones “selected” to pay for the sewer. All key Los Osos project documents from the EIR to the Prop 218 vote included alternatives in the design-build process as reason to support the process. Instead, suddenly, MWH is rated #1 on both short lists — for collection and treatment — for the project.

On March 26 CalCoastNews published Los Osos homeowner Piper Reilly’s “Opinion” critical of MWH. The Comment section was not operational for four days.

On March 31 and April 1 — April Fool’s Day appropriately enough — a spokeswoman and agent for Taxpayers Watch, the successor group to “Save The Dream,” close to Gibson and still dedicated to Nash-Karner — trolled and spammed CCN to protest Reilly’s “Opinion” and CCN’s commenters conduct code.

By attempting to discredit Reilly’s criticism of MWH and discredit CNN for publishing it, they aim to silence any dissent and distract from an overdue investigation into the county, MWH’s practices in Los Osos and the town-cleansing sewer that could be built for a $100 million less — if MWH wasn’t embedded in the deal. Their flank exposed, they attack.

Welcome to New Orleans West, Pandora’s dream, Gibson’s goons and the long arm of MWH.

Thanks for your uncommonly clear comment on “Commongate,” Dave.

For those who still choose to believe there was or is a CCN conspiracy afoot to shut down comments on Piper’s “Opinion,” your clarification will only be seen as a denial, which, for them, is clear, unequivocal “evidence” of a conspiracy.

As you know only too well, that’s just how things work in Los Osos, where dissent is treated as proof of pollution of the lower aquifer and our drinking water supply.

By the way, Dave, where is that “proof of pollution” that only the giant, unsealed pipes of MWH can remove? Have you ever seen it? I haven’t. Neither has anybody else. Because it doesn’t exist.

What does exist is an unholy marriage between the County and MWH, relentlessly promoted by Gibson and Paavo as #1 on both short lists for the project. Why?

Los Osos is ‘Nawlins, Dave! Laissez les bon temps roulez!

For the next couple of days, there will be some comments that are likely to please some but offend many. On my site, I pointed out some fairly obscene comments that were directed at Mrs. Reilly.

I ask the readers here to provide more thoughtful, informative comments instead of comments like, “She’s unstable! She yells at people at the grocery store!” If people continue to post like that, then it further legitimizes comments being disabled.

Even though I thanked CalCoastNews for disabling comments initially, I’m glad to see what will come out of these discussions and I hope to see some constructive discourse.

Thank you, Dave.

Stranger than fiction

I removed your link, sorry the page you are linking to was ‘retired’. Best to use email for site issues like this (what happened to my comment) instead of the comment box here in the discussion thread.

The moderator reserves the right to cheerfully delete comments… that fail, and perhaps disemvowel comments that ‘troll the moderator’.