SLO County waste management agency spent thousands on luxury items

December 17, 2018

By KAREN VELIE

An agency created to help San Luis Obispo County government entities with recycling reporting requirements, has diverted funds from that mission to purchase luxury items for the benefit of staff and board members. [Cal Coast Times]

Over the past 20 years, the San Luis Obispo County Integrated Waste Management Authority (IWMA) has spent public funds on seemingly unrelated expenses such as handmade dishes, a satellite phone, an electric car charging station, large screen TV sets and a luxury toilet. Government funds purchased these items for IWMA staff to use while at the Osos Street office.

While many charges are listed on the monthly IWMA credit card statements, it is often difficult to discern the cost of each item as most records held at the agency were recently destroyed.

As part of a criminal probe into misappropriation of funds, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office asked for IWMA credit card statements and demanded staff not destroy records, according to an email from the district attorney’s office to the IWMA. Even so, before beginning an extended medical leave in September, IWMA secretary Carolyn Goodrich allegedly shredded many agency documents, according to staff.

The spending controversy ultimately led the waste management board to place former administrator Bill Worrell on administrative leave before accepting his retirement. But spending issues at the district go beyond the credit card and vehicle expenditures that cost Worrell his job.

Wall mount unit for toilet

Findings from a review of luxury items at the IWMA office:

Toto Washlet toilet: For the user’s nether regions — includes a heated seat, warm water cleansing, warm air drying with adjustable temperature, pulsating spray optional and an air deodorizer. Currently priced at approximately $3,000, with an additional $500 installation fee.

Fire and Light handmade glassware: Worrell spent thousands at the Arcata showroom purchasing a set of dinner plates, bowls and glasses for the staff and board members to use at the office. Dinner plates run $40 a piece while water glasses cost $35 each. In an apparent gift of public funds, Worrell also purchased at least a dozen candy dishes with lids to give out as gifts, at $42 a dish.

Fire and Light candy dishes used as gifts to board members

Satellite phone: Satellite phones are mobile devices that receive their signal from satellites in orbit around the Earth and work outdoors in many places cell phones do not have service. While satellite phones have been around for decades, they are not affordable for many people as charges can run up to $16 a minute.

Electric car charging station: After Goodrich bought an electric car, on Oct. 9, 2017, the IWMA credit card was used to buy an electric car charging station. The charging station was then placed in an IWMA staff only parking lot.

A 70 inch flat screen television adorns a wall in the IWMA conference room. While wide-screen computer monitors are uncommon in government offices, Worrell purchased them for the IWMA.

While members of the IWMA board of directors have a legal and fiduciary duty to steer the agency towards sound financial management practices, board members accepted stipends but failed to examine or question the agency’s spending.


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laftch

And the beat goes on.


JordanJ

Isn’t it obstruction of evidence to destroy records?


kayaknut

Not if you are a member of the protected class, or doing so at the cough cough request of one of the protected class.


horse_soldier

It’s obvious. The IWMA required a special toilet simply because the people who used it are such big @ssholes.


wineguyjc

Where to begin is the operative question?

First, Dan Dow’s email to Carolyn Goodrich about not destroying evidence was truly code for please, please, please, my good friend, destroy the evidence. These are his personal friends. Based upon this article Carolyn Goodrich destroyed evidence to a criminal act to protect who and why????

We have had governmental oversight of a JPA which includes the staff at the county and virtually every city, plus local elected officials for over a decade, yet numerous people at the IWMA apparently embezzled, covered up and conspired to steal public funds for their personal benefit. We also had a local public accounting firm audit the books from the inception of the JPA and every year the IWMA passed the audits with flying colors. We also had Raymon A. Biering serve as legal counsel, Peter Cron a staff analyst, Patti Toews as IWMA staff and no one realized this conduct may be wrong?

In 2007 these local officials who served on the Board of the IWMA with the public’s interest at the core of their duties included: Jerry Lenthall, President; Christine Mulholland, Vice President; Ed Arnold a now convicted RSO; Ellen Beraud; Chuck Aston; Melody Demerritt; John Hamon; Ted Ehring; Katho Achadjian; Bruce Gibson; Harry Ovitt; Jim Patterson and Dave Brooks. Many other elected officials followed and no one ever caught any of the financial red flags, not a one of them. Were these people just asleep at the job, on the take or just financially inept?

Also during this time numerous local agency staff served in numerous roles assisting with the oversight of the IWMA. These staff included Ron Munds a former Manager at the City of San Luis Obispo and now a Manager at the County of San Luis Obispo, Mary Whittlesley a former staff member at the County of San Luis Obispo. Interesting enough Ron Munds was a potential candidate to fill in as interim Chief of the IWMA, really?

The interesting fact is that all of these people and many more are and were personal friends with Bill Worrell, the former Chief of the IWMA who is at the center of a criminal probe. In addition, most of these people in one capacity or another were involved in the formation of the JPA and the process of hiring Bill Worrell. Interesting enough, not a one of these people bothered to look at the reasons why he left the County of San Diego in the early 90’s. All one has to do is contact the San Diego Tribune and look up the interesting issues surrounding his departure and the departure of one of his trusted staff members Mike D. I encourage everyone to look into these issues themselves.

Why no one ever caught these discrepancies during 20 plus years is alarming. However, the stipends, free lunches, Christmas gifts and who knows what else were all probably a justification to look the other way.

Unfortunately, these issues run deep and why it was never addressed previously suggest that Dan Dow will do nothing. This is an investigation into the truth that was dead at the onset. Bill Worrell has been a part of the top elite of the County for 20 years and no one wants to see him go down.


I am sure that some of the people who should have caught this issue were just oblivious and didn’t get into the minutia.


rukidding

Good article and comments. Could it be that each member on the Board receives $100 for attending the meetings? I think that it also points out that many elected officials have no idea about financing and for the most part take the word of their staff and just rubber stamp what is put in front of them. These actions here clearly indicate that is what happened. So in the long run most of those who you have mentioned are part of the SLO good old boys club and nothing will become of this.