Worrell on leave, IWMA fraud investigation continues

August 10, 2018

IWMA employee Carolyn Goodrich and San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill listen as IWMA legal counsel Ray Biering reports out of closed session.

By Cal Coast Times staff

The San Luis Obispo County Integrated Waste Management Authority Board voted unanimously on Wednesday to place the agency’s manager on paid administrative leave because of criminal allegations of misuse of public funds. [Cal Coast Times]

In May, several members of the public asked the board to call for a forensic audit of the IWMA’s handling of tax dollars entrusted to it. At that time, SLO County supervisors Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson argued against an audit claiming there had been no improprieties. Legal Counsel Ray Biering wanted to limit the discussion of possible financial wrongdoing to an executive committee, which may not have been legally formed.

Following a contentious discussion, the board nevertheless voted unanimously to place a discussion of an audit on its next meeting agenda in September.

Shortly afterwards, the SLO District Attorney’s Office announced it was investigating the IWMA for possible fraud, prompting the board to call for a special meeting.

At Wednesday’s meeting, many of the speakers asked the IWMA board to put manager Bill Worrell on paid administrative leave and to order a forensic audit .

“Fraud and corruption in the IWMA isn’t going to just go away. It can’t magically fix itself,” said Templeton resident Claire Mamakos. “It is time for your board to take constructive, decisive, and corrective measures to get this agency on a proper course for the first time since its’ inception.”

Charles Tenborg

One speaker, Charles Tenborg, asked the board to weigh the “credibility of the information presented against Bill Worrell especially from biased CalCoastNews supporters, who you have heard today misrepresenting themselves as concerned citizens.” Tenborg claimed he had been horribly defamed by CalCoastNews reporters.

In 2012, Tenborg sued CalCoastNews and two reporters over an article about the IWMA and its relationship with contractors, including Tenborg. It was to be the start of a series focused on the IWMA, which was never finished because of the legal threats.

In the two years leading up to the trial, two allies of Tenborg, San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill and online commenter Aaron Ochs, engaged in a campaign of defaming and harassing CalCoastNews reporters, advertisers and reporter’s families.

Hill then threatened advertisers who had business before the board of supervisors. In one instance, Hill sent a CalCoastNews’ advertiser a text that said he was working with Tenborg to destroy CalCoastNews, and the advertiser would also suffer harm if he did not pull his advertising.

CalCoastNews advertising losses left the news site and its staff with virtually no money for a defense.

Two of CalCoastNews’ witnesses died before trial. One died shortly after writing a declaration and the other died before she could be deposed. A third said he was run off the road by another vehicle and was hospitalized during the trial.

In March 2017, most of the reporters’ witnesses and evidence was ruled out of the trial by Judge Barry LaBarbara. Following multiple false statements by Tenborg, the jury returned its verdict, and a judgment was then entered for $1.1 million in favor of Tenborg, an investigator found.

In Aug. 2017, friends of CalCoastNews hired Carl Knudson Investigations to reexamine details of the published article which resulted in the litigation.

During the litigation, Tenborg’s attorney James Wagstaffe failed to inform the court or opposing council that he was professionally connected to the IWMA, a fact only later disclosed by Biering. Generally, attorneys disclose possible conflicts of interest to the court.

“I am not available to meet to discuss the IWMA and the relationship with Mr. Tenborg,” Biering wrote in an email to Knudson. “Also, please be aware that my law firm has a close professional relationship with Mr. Tenborg’s  counsel, Jim Wagstaffe.”

Several months after the citizens’ group retained investigator Knudson, Tenborg’s attorneys proposed settlement offers to Karen Velie and Daniel Blackburn.

Velie’s offer stipulated that Tenborg would abandon his entire financial claim in exchange for the her agreement to never again report on him or his companies.

Kerr Wagstaffe attorneys wanted the same pledge from Blackburn, but that situation was different. Tenborg already had forced Blackburn into bankruptcy, who nearly lost the home he and his wife have owned for 21 years. A trust fund had been established by the bankruptcy trustee and funded by a second on Blackburn’s home. Tenborg offered to divide his “share” of that funds money.

And, in what was described as a “non-negotiable” provision, a similar gag order was proposed to cover Worrell and the IWMA, also. Neither the IWMA nor Worrell were a party to Tenborg’s libel complaint against CalCoastNews.

The offer also would have required termination of Knudson’s investigation, a matter over which neither Velie nor Blackburn had any control. Both rejected Tenborg’s demands.

On Aug. 8, the IWMA Board of Directors voted to immediately place manager Bill Worrell on administrative leave effective until his retirement on Sept. 11, a retirement that was not previously scheduled. In addition, the board voted to have the executive committee hire an outside investigator to conduct a forensic audit.


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Smith

The board voted to have the “executive committee” hire an investigator? The executive committee that was illegally created? Who is on the executive committee? Is Adam Hill on the executive committee? Please answer, CCN.


rukidding

Mr. Worrell’s retirement should be put on hold until this issue is resolved. His contract should become public information so that we all would know, that if he is guilty of any of these accusations, how would his retirement benefits be affected? Should he be guilty it would be another crime against the taxpayers of SLO to let him walk away with a full retirement and benefits. The history of SLO prosecutions, Wallace’s felonies reduced to minor misdemeanors, should no longer be accepted by the people.


Julie

That contract is public record. I am in possession of a copy. Shoot me an email and I’ll send it to ya.

julietacker@charter.net


TKG

Why is it that Adam Hill fought so hard for so long to resist the forensic audit? Congrats to CCN on excavating as much material as you have on this, but this question needs to be answered and soon, given the amount of support the Hill political machine is throwing into the Harmon, Christianson races in the city of San Luis Obispo!


shelworth

I found a video of Adam Hill discussing this very topic!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdFl__NlOpA


scoopone

I firmly believe that DA Dan Dow will see that all those that are guilty of this public scam be sent to the iron bar hotel for a long time.


Chance

That’s a great picture of Adam Hill. He’s obviously thinking, “Oh shit.”


discloser

Looks like he’s snorting coke.


Ted R

The fact that this really was a government conspiracy to silence a website is what gets me. Dan and Karen, you should sell the rights to Netflix. Congratulations on a well deserved turn of events. 


PolyInsider

If the SLO County DA decides to let it drop, the California Attorney General will probably be interested. It’s likely that some State agencies were unknowingly involved in disposal activities carried out by one of both of these people. If someone picked up waste from Cal Poly or the Men’s Colony or Atascadero State or Caltrans then the agency will have documentation of that, and the AG can track it through the disposal chain to make sure it was handled properly and legally.


PolyInsider

If the SLO DA is trying to decide on how to proceed, maybe he could check with the San Francisco DA who put these two guys in prison for their hazardous waste scam:


http://sfappeal.com/2015/04/contractor-pleads-guilty-to-118-counts-of-bribery-involving-former-sfsu-official/


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