County to investigate Ogren and Kelly

June 23, 2011

Maria Kelly

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors is asking staff to investigate allegations of a conflict of interest between county Public Works director Paavo Ogren and Maria Kelly, who stepped down last week from the Los Osos Community Services District. [Tribune]

The move follows an exclusive investigation by CalCoastNews, suggesting that Ogren and Kelly did not publicly disclose a personal relationship between the two. Sources have indicated that Kelly lives most of the time at Ogren’s San Luis Obispo home instead of at the house she owns in Los Osos.

If correct, Kelly is in violation of a California code which requires board members to actually live in Los Osos.

Critics claim that the relationship has been going on for several years and that Kelly abused her position by not revealing that she was dating Ogren while the county was moving ahead with the controversial sewer system.

Paavo Ogren

Ogren said he will be meeting with county administrator Jim Grant next Monday to discuss the issue.

Kelly admitted the relationship to a reporter, but insisted that the couple had been dating for only six months and that they have never discussed the sewer issue.

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Look, just because a person gets elected to a position doesn’t mean that person has to jettison all friends. If Bruce and his wife break bread in public with Paavo and Maria, good. It’s much better than if they did so in private. Too me, Bruce is not hiding (not saying his hands are clean, just that he isn’t hiding).

That being said, it is more incumbent on Paavo to jealously protect his professional integrity. He is the captain of the Public Works ship and is responsible for the steering of not only the direction his department takes but also the ethical benchmark of what is expected of his staff. Ergo, if Karen has been a responsible journalist, then from this article we can assume the following:


Sorry – apparently hitting tab is the same as enter.

1 Ogren is the director of SLOC Public Works and so gives direction on projects of import. He has been involved with LO Sewer issues for many years, at least since he was the utilities manager. As such he has developed an educated understanding of the issues. It is unlikely that subordinates would make a move without his blessing.

2 Kelly was a CSD board member at the time that the person giving her board advice on spending money was also making her breakfast. This was undisclosed at any public meeting.

Ergo – If these are the only facts, Mr. Ogren has few options other than to resign or retire. Again, if these are the facts, he has no ethical authority to manage a SLO County department. What the CAO does is another matter since Paavo has so much institutional knowledge on LO, his leaving on bad terms could be very costly.

Well, it is a little more complicated than that because the board members of CSDs are required to live in the CSD. She was living at Ogren’s. That’s REALLY bad for her–like REALLY bad.

If the LOCSD peeps were to get a bee in their bonnet (I know, how could that ever happen?) and started writing letters….

Also, not recusing themselves when acting officially when those actions benefitted themselves or their bedmates is something you can go to prison for.

Finally, to take advantage of your public position to benefit yourself and your bedmates is just such obviously BAD ethics. Truly, there is no telling what other stuff they have pulled.

Mary, Allen Settle had his domicile in Arroyo Grande, which is where he lived and spent most of his time. Why did (do) the voters of SLO consider him a person that could represent them. Simple. Cal Poly students can vote in this district and any kid who had went to a polytechnic university known for it’s AG and engineering, but majored in liberal arts or social sciences was looking for an easy diploma. Settle and Hill can always count on that vote.

I am convinced that no one is going to prison. Hell, no one is going to be indicted! The crime is simply not one where hard money was involved.

The issue here, where Karen has correctly reported on, is one of professional ethics. The question that she is forcing the CAO to answer is one he is currently wrestling with. It wouldn’t have happened were it not for investigation from CCN.

So Karen. Your courage is commendable. I probably will not agree much with your world view, but I respect your integrity.

In the early 1980’s, the San Luis Obispo City council, I believe, (at a time when Settle was a relatively new city council member,) redrew it’s voting district to eliminate Cal Poly students from being able to vote in City elections. Why? They had too much collective voting power, and could heavily influence the city’s future growth and development. The city was happy to take their money which created a thriving Downtown BIA district. University money has added a few million to San Luis Obispo each year. But the student vote? The student “platform?” Forget it. Settle’s longevity is due to his mediocrity. Can you think of any decision he’s made, –when he hasn’t been a follower,– that has had any long-lasting effect on the city?

Well, to be fair, it does seem that the consummate politician is all about the “cruise control” – and avoid steering at all costs.

It might not be the best thing when scandals occur, but how often have we heard people wish that congress (or other political body) would just STAY HOME, as anything they do is usually just interference for everyone else.

Sometimes politicians doing NOTHING is far cheaper than when they feel they need to do something.

BWA-HA-HA! Talk about a red herring.

1. Ogren and Kelly start having a sexual affair while Kelly is still married to her husband.

2. Ogren and Kelly fail to disclose conflicts of interest over their sexual affair and the impact it is likely to have on their votes on issues of mutual importance..

3. Ogren and Kelly fail to recuse themselves from participating in votes, discussions, or other policy-impacting actions that concern the Los Osos sewer project.

4. Kelly, on numerous occasions, trots herself up to appear before the BOS where she cloyingly and gushingly praises the BOS and Ogren’s “vision.”

5. Kelly moves in with Ogren, a fact both Kelly and Ogren would know, yet Kelly continues in her role as a board member of the LOCSD.

Have I left anything out? Oh, yeah…

6. Kelly is now actively participating in an attempt to coverup her activities. Since Ogren must know about this attempted coverup, he is a co-conspirator.

While I agree that there is an issue of “ethics” here, I believe the problems go much deeper than that.

To indicate that someone who has committed fraud by holding a position on the LOCSD BOD when she wasn’t living in the district will not even be indicted because someone else did the same thing (and we’d have to compare the policies between the two in order to judge if they did do the same thing) is not realistic. It is also just plain wrong to say there was “no hard money involved.”

Payment to board members, reimbursement of expenses, etc. certainly involve “hard money.” Maria Kelly’s pimping her position as VP of the LOCSD BOD to benefit Ogren advanced his career and standing. Ogren’s promotion of Kelly as a candidate certainly advanced her career and standing.

If Kelly and Ogren don’t end up being indicted, it is only because this County embraces and promotes corruption in its employees and administrators, as we’ve seen by the County coddling John Wallace and the board members of the SSLOCSD WWT facility.

That ‘s the same arguement they give at the south county sanitation district. Re; Wallace. All the same player’s, sing the same song.

IMO, retiring is not an option. Why should he continue to benefit from his unethical and perhaps criminal actions?

If he wanted to have his cupcake and eat it too, he should have resigned/retired BEFORE he capitalized on the relationship by officially conducting it in the dark and continuing to make official decisions that benefited Kelly and himself.

Ogren and Kelly decided together to work in tandem to keep their sexual relationship a secret so they could continue to use their official positions to benefit each other’s professional and official careers. That sounds like a conspiracy to me.

Interesting webpage on the legal definition of conspiracy:


QUOTE: “An agreement between two or more persons to engage jointly in an unlawful or criminal act, or an act that is innocent in itself but becomes unlawful when done by the combination of actors….”

“…..A conspiracy exists as long as measures are taken to conceal evidence of the crime. A person who did not participate in the original agreement can become a coconspirator after the actual criminal act if the person joins in the concealment of the conspiracy. Whether a coconspirator received personal benefit or profit is of no importance.

Generally, conspirators are liable for all crimes committed within the course or scope of the conspiracy. The application of this general rule varies from state to state. Ordinarily, an act is within the course or scope of the conspiracy if it is a foreseeable result of the agreement. In some states, a conspirator is not liable where he or she has no knowledge of the specific act and argues successfully that the act was beyond the scope of the conspiracy. Also, if the purpose of the agreement is later changed by coconspirators, a conspirator who did not participate in the alteration may not be held liable for the new conspiracy. A person is liable for conspiracy only in regard to the meaning of the agreement as he or she understands it.

In some jurisdictions, a person may be guilty of conspiracy even if a coconspirator is immune from prosecution. For example, if two persons conspire to commit murder and one is found to have been insane at the time of the killing, the other conspirator may not be exempt from prosecution for conspiracy.

One who provides services to conspirators will not be guilty of conspiracy if that person has not participated in the agreement and does not know that a conspiracy exists. There must be a willful participation in the conspiracy, as well as an intent to further the common purpose or design for conspiratorial liability. Therefore, aiding a conspiracy by selling material to further it does not make someone a conspirator if the person does not know of the conspiracy, even if that person knows the goods sold will be used for an unlawful purpose. However, if the circumstances indicate a conspiracy, one who cooperates and knowingly sells goods for illegal use may be guilty of conspiracy.

Generally, if a number of conspirators agree to carry out different functions in furtherance of the conspiracy, the agreement constitutes a single conspiracy. This is so even if the different functions amount to more than one unlawful purpose. In some states, however, the different functions may constitute multiple conspiracies if there is an agreement to commit more than one crime.

Punishment for the crime of conspiracy is ordinarily defined by statute and varies in accordance with the conspiracy’s objective. For example, a conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor will not be subject to the same punishment as a conspiracy to commit a felony. Conspiracy may be alleged in a civil case if the plaintiff has suffered an injury as a result of the conspiracy. Civil conspiracy is ordinarily not a Cause of Action, but the existence of a conspiracy may be used in determining the amount of damages in a civil action and the respective liabilities of civil codefendants for the payment of damages….



So it looks like, not only did Ogren and Kelly conspire to commit a crime, but anyone who knew about it and did nothing also became a part of the conspiracy.

No, I don’t think anybody should benefit from retirement benefits if they have been involved in a conspiracy to act fraudulently to benefit themselves from a combination of the conspiracy and their power as elected officials. In fact, to receive retirement benefits would require another conspiracy, or at least a broadened conspiracy, to commit fraud by arranging with another/others to receive benefits they did not deserve.

On the positive side, the people of Los Osos and SLOCouty who have been screwed over by Ogren/Kelly, if they decided to sue Ogren, Kelly, and anyone in an official capacity who knew about the conspiracy and fraud but did nothing to stop it, might be able to settle for enough money to knock down some of the exorbitant price of the sewer project.

I would love to see the people of Los Osos and SLOCo win SOMETHING from this decades-long bait-and-switch scam besides having to pay $400/month to poop.

“There must be a willful participation in the conspiracy, as well as an intent to further the common purpose or design for conspiratorial liability.”

MaryMalone, I think this is the most relevant sentence out of your informative definition.

In order to hold any bureaucrat liable for wrongdoing, you would have to identify with particularity the particular act or decision made by the bureaucrat which was “improperly influenced” by his or her relationship with the other bureaucrat.

Then you would need to show how that act or decision violated a specific law.

OR, you would have to prove some kind of “unlawful influence” that the one employee had on the other.

When looking at how their personal relationship influenced their decision-making, you must look at their respective job duties and status.

Was one in a supervisorial position over the other?

That is why I mentioned one area of study being the issue of “sexual harassment/hostile work environment.”

I mentioned this not because this particular situation falls into either category. I mentioned it because the cases which fall under this category discuss job relationships and how the power which comes with a particular job can give one of the employees “supervisorial” power over the other.

The disparity in power (i.e., “supervisorial” power) between two employees can add to problems on the job, if the two employees–who work for the same company, in the same location—are also engaged in a sexual relationship.

Another issue which you seem to presume, is that there was an “intent” by one or both of them to use their official powers to improperly influence some decision or official act within the sole control of one or both of them. Where is this evident?

Again, I for one, am glad to see this general issue of “conflict of interest”, and “nepotism” discussed in a public forum. The County government has ignored this issue to the public detriment. But I can’t help but feel that these employees’ private lives have little to add to the discussion, and is an invasion of their privacy. You have to identify a specific decision of theirs which was improperly influenced by the relationship. Or, you have to identify that some act which they engaged in violated a specific rule, regulation or law.

Well, what a surprise. Maria Kelly hasn’t shown up to post. Must be busy moving her things back to her home in Los Osos or something….

When is sex between two government employees a conflict of interest? I don’t have a clue, but the discussion is long overdue. Even without the sex, simple familial relationships between employees who work for the same employer can give them the ability to exceed or misuse the power which comes with their employment and official duties. Once, I tried to find any California laws which delt with “nepotism” and could only find one or two. Which is not to say they don’t exist. I just couldn’t find them. But this is a widespread issue–that is, the issue of government employees who are related by blood or marriage (or sex) being in a superior position to use the “official color” of their offices or work employment to unlawfully influence the outcome of the decision-making process. The closest I could find which gave me some insight into how these relationships might negatively affect the workplace or the decision-making process that comes with the job are cases referred to as “hostile work environment/sexual harassment cases.” On the other hand, one could argue that a good sexual relationship might level the playing ground. I’d like to see more discussion, more research on the question, “When does a sexual relationship between employees become a “conflict of interest” under the Fair Political Practices Act?

It’s called “conflict of interest,” which is defined by as:


1. ,A situation that has the potential to undermine the impartiality of a person because of the possibility of a clash between the person’s self-interest and professional interest or public interest.

2. A situation in which a party’s responsibility to a second-party limits its ability to discharge its responsibility to a third-party.


[[NOTE: I’m trying html tags to see how they work here, so if the post ends up looking goofy, it’s the html, HONEST! Yeah, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

Your general definitions of “conflict of interest” help me know what to look for when researching the blizzard of code section within the Fair Political Practices Act. They help me narrow down the search to apply specific sections to the generally prohibited conduct. Thank-you, MaryMalone:)

If the BOS thinks they are going to quiet the outrage over this fraud perpetrated against the SLOCo residents and voters by having a staff investigation of Ogren and Kelly, then the BOS is dead wrong.

We are quite savvy when it comes to meaningless investigations conducted to protect the accused–we’ve had a lot of experience with it thanks to John Wallace and his political cronies.

Clearly, the BOS is not taking this seriously. It’s time to go to the State Attorney General for help in sorting this out.

When the investigation comes up empty, CCN will have the chance to show the Trib how a proper retraction is done. We wil see if it is done with the same zeal as the original “story”.

I can hardly wait for you to eat crow on this one walkthetalk. All you civil servants need to be a bit fearful of CCN. It appears to be part of the 4th estate that you cannot bribe

If Walk the Talk is like many of the apologistas for corrupt government we’ve seen do drive-bys of the CCN message boards, it will just quietly tuck its tail between its legs and slink away. There will be no acknowledgement of being wrong or apologies.

oops. My fingers are too old, big, and clumsy for this new fangled keyboards. I meant to vote thumbs down. How does one do a proper retraction of a thumbs up?

comment rating questions answered.

I don’t think you can retract the thumbs down. Probably best just to buy the poster a drink.

Sad, ‘Shoot the messenger’ attitude.

CCN didn’t create or stimulate this story, they just reported it. Ask Paavo and Maria about those who created the story… Tell ’em to get a mirror.

LOL….CCN has already shown the Trib so many things about good journalism and the Trib hasn’t learned yet. How long do you expect CCN to hold the Trib’s hand?

Am thinkin that 60% of the Tribs. sales, are just to confirm what they dont report on. Business as usual in slo town.

I think this is REAL journalism!

Oh, the San Luis Obispo Tribune gets a story now and again… but then won’t follow up. I wonder if they still have weekly meetings with Cal Poly to ensure that they are covered ‘correctly?’ … or is this just a viscous rumor?

Speaking of the Tribune, they were all excited to run an article or two about mean old Roger and Cal Coast news being sued by Mo’ Noori … but they failed to do the proper follow up by running a story about how I won my suit! Oh yeah, I sent them all the documentation to help the story along… but nothing. The Tribune is just sad… and tired.

Thank you CCN for all you do!


Karen & CCN has done an outstanding job bringing this story to the forefront, keep digging, you’ll find MORE. Someone mentioned it might be worthwhile to check Ogren’s contract with SLO County…Does it contain a “Morals Clause”? If so, he WAS, indeed cavorting with Kelly while SHE was married to Shawn. Shawn might be a GOOD Source for more on this… Morals clause or not, SLO County will no doubt turn a “blind eye” to these shenanigans, just becauseTHAT”S WHAT THEY DO…

An illustrative moment: CalCoastNews breaks a story that has the whole county talking. The Tribune ignores the story until the supes decide to study the matter, then refers to this site as “an online post.”

Trib editor Sandy Duerr’s policy is to not mention this site in print, yet Karen properly credits The Trib for their follow-up piece. Very petty, Trib.

I don’t give the Trib much credit for credibility. The fact that they are a mouthpiece for John Wallace calls all of their work into question.

Well said!!

Innocent until proven guilty, that is the theoretical American way (works usually only for the big shots). But I am beginning to view these two as I do Gearhead, David Edge, Gail Wilcox, Pat Hedges and others around here who have cost us a fortune before, during and after their ‘crimes’ against the public.

A huge problem here is the outrageous and sweetheart contracts our big wigs get that award them for bad performance. As we have seen with SLO city and its ridiculous contract with the City Manager that is costing over $300k/year, other high level folks are given fat bonuses even when fired for cause. It would be great if the various entities (such as the county of SLO) would determine the actual costs to the taxpayers of these people (such as in this case the agonizing sewer ordeal-what did and will that cost in Supervisors (and others) time, ramifications to Los Ososians in now having to reverse course again (if possible, and prudent).

Once again kudos to CCN; this is another notch on your pry bar that you use to lift the rocks our local slime crawl under to hide from public scrutiny.

I agree, CCN warrants our praise and thanks for reporting this.

However, comparing these people to the heavies like Gearhart, Hedges and Wilcox is over the top.

Not over the top, just a stretch. And let’s see where it goes. I like to challenge the mellow and ‘oh-so-compassionate’ voices of reason who often sell us down the river with their self righteous claims and snooty arrogance. Instead of giving all credence to how innocent our local crooks are (and thereby screwing their victims) until all shadows of doubt are removed why not throw the book at them and see what happens? I’m mostly referring to the big shots. And of course our miserable good for nothing money drain piece of crap DA would be one of my first candidates for a public whipping.

I don’t think it’s too “over the top”, racket. It’s not just about the actions of these public employees; it’s their shared arrogant, “I-can-do-what-I-want-to-do” ATTITUDE that has many of us frustrated and fed up.

I love logging onto CCN to see what’s really going on in the county. God knows we don’t learn any of this from the other local media sources.

I don’t see it as “over the top.” This is multimillion-dollar fraud perpetrated against the citizens of Los Osos/SLOCo, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Once a REAL investigation–not the insider staff investigation the BOS thinks will make it all go away–is done, there may very well be far worse crimes they have committed.

I wonder if Ogren and Kelly’s kids were given any special treatment like Ryan Mason was?

A 200 million dollar fiasco perpetrated on 15000 people for 30-40 yrs. that was unneeded or wanted? Small potatoes?

Our CSD was in bed with the county most literally. In bed and in her. How can all these socially crippled people end up as social leaders. It sure does look like scum floats to the top.

justme; with all that scum floating to the top, sounds like we need to bring in the sanitation experts /flood control/water district. Nuff said.

racket; One cant work without the other. All spokes in the wheel.