Phone records debunk public officials
August 11, 2011
By KAREN VELIE
San Luis Obispo County phone records obtained by CalCoastNews prove a personal relationship between a county official and a Los Osos board member began more than four years ago.
County Public Works Director Paavo Ogren and former Los Osos Community Services District Board member Maria Kelly are being investigated by the county for a possible conflict of interest. The investigation was prompted by allegations the couple were involved in a close personal relationship while Kelly was voting on issues that impacted Ogren.
Critics contend Ogren and Kelly failed to comply with closed session privacy laws, conflict of interest rules, residence laws and ethics rules.
In her defense, Kelly claims she began dating Ogren about six months ago and they have never discussed issues regarding the sewer.
Her former husband, Shaun Kelly, said Ogren would tell Maria Kelly how she should vote on district issues before board meetings and would follow up with discussions over closed session meetings, a claim supported by Ogren’s county cell phone records.
These records show Ogren and Kelly spoke regularly from early 2007 though late 2009, when Ogren stopped using a county cell phone. Some calls lasted more than an hour and many were made during the work day.
For example, on Jan. 2, 2009, Kelly called Ogren at 9 p.m. and they remained on the line for more than two hours, their third phone exchange that day.
Critics claim that the relationship between Ogren and Kelly began before Kelly ran for office in 2008. Ogren went as far as paying people cash for promoting Kelly’s election, several Los Osos residents said.
At the same time, Ogren was under fire for illegally backdating a government contract.
Ogren was temporarily running the Los Osos district when Montgomery Watson Harza (MWH) was retained by the district for wastewater project management in early September 1999. Prior to his work with the district, Ogren had worked for a subcontractor of MWH.
Ogren did not sign the contract, nor did any board member. Instead, Ogren waited several weeks until Bruce Buell began his stint as the new district manager, and then he told Buell to backdate the MWH contract.
In 2006, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Brown acknowledged that “falsification of a public record by a public employee is a felony,” and that a criminal act relating to the backdating apparently had occurred. But Brown declined further investigation by determining that a three-year statute of limitation had expired.
The 2006 LOCSD Board believed the district attorney’s decision was wrong because penal code Section 803(c) says the time limitations do not commence until the discovery of an offense and filed a complaint with the Construction Management Association.
The court stayed the complaint when the district filed for Chapter 9 Bankruptcy Protection.
MWH asked the district to drop its complaint to the contractors’ association in exchange for MWH forgiving a $1 million bankruptcy claim against the district.
Meanwhile, Kelly ran for the board and was seated in 2008.
On Dec. 17, 2009, Kelly voted in favor off the MWH proposed settlement. County phone records indicate that Kelly and Ogren spoke twice the morning before the vote, once the day after the vote, and four times on Dec. 19, 2009.
Kelly’s vote to settle that particular case nullified Ogren’s culpability in ordering the back dating of the MWH contract.
Ogren and Kelly have since both divorced from their spouses and allegedly spent many evenings at Ogren’s San Luis Obispo home.
On June 17, as suspicions grew that Kelly no longer lived in Los Osos, a requirement to serve on the board, she abruptly stepped down from her position as vice president of the district.
Maria Kelly contends she never moved out of her Los Osos home—a statement discounted by court documents filed by Shaun Kelly in May 2010.
“Maria moved out of the family residence in January 2010,” Shaun Kelly says in the documents. “She moved back in March or April 2010. She used the converted garage as her bedroom until August 2010 when I moved out with the children.”