Lawsuit targets trove of hidden SLO County IWMA documents

October 31, 2019

Carl Knudson


A private investigator who spent 23 years as an IRS special agent and whose work helped dismantle a Colombian drug cartel is suing San Luis Obispo County’s waste disposal agency and District Attorney Dan Dow to force the release of records that have been sought for more than seven years. [Cal Coast Times]

Carl Knudson, the private investigator, says that the defendants have been involved in an effort to conceal the contents of the records. Knudson’s attorney Paul Nicholas Boylan, from Davis, Calif., filed Knudson’s suit in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court. The suit names the county’s Integrated Waste Management Authority and the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney.

Knudson’s lawsuit asserts that the defendants’ conduct violates the state’s Constitution and the California Public Records Act. Because the IWMA is a government entity, the state’s public record act applies.

The lawsuit asks the court to order the agency to provide the requested documents.

Knudson came to San Luis Obispo following a libel suit brought by Charles Tenborg, an IWMA private contractor against CalCoastNews and two of its reporters. CalCoastNews began the first of a series of investigative articles about the IWMA, Tenborg and practices that they engaged in.

When the reporters sought IWMA records to be used in their defense, IWMA manager William Worrell claimed that most records prior to and including 2013 had been destroyed.

Charles Tenborg

After Tenborg won a $1.1 million judgment in 2017, a group of county residents hired Knudson to investigate Tenborg, the IWMA and the facts of the case.

Knudson also was retained to probe the finances of the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District. There, he uncovered what he believes to be evidence of wrongdoing by district officials, staff and a contractor.

In Knudson’s 10-month investigation of IWMA, he found significant evidence of unlawful use of public funds. One of his findings was that IWMA employees used an agency credit card for personal expenses, and that nearly a half-million dollars was unaccounted for.

Knudson also obtained extensive public records from state agencies in 2018 showing that Tenborg unlawfully filed false claims to CalRecycle for 17 consecutive months.

Tenborg was forced to reimburse the state and sign a statement admitting to the transgressions three weeks prior to the start of the CalCoastNews trial. Other documents showed an ongoing pattern of unlawful waste disposal practices by both the IWMA and Tenborg.

Knudson provided Dow with his reports and accompanying documents. Dow then contacted IWMA’s then-manager William Worrell to request IWMA records.

Employees of the IWMA quickly brought in a large shredder and destroyed hundreds, if not thousands, of documents pertaining to decades of questionable financial transactions and private spending by the agency, according to former IWMA interim administrator Michael Giancola. Agency officials also authorized and carried out the deletion of voluminous computer records.

Giancola responded by ordering a forensic accounting for the agency’s many computers.

IWMA Administrator Bill Worrell and legal counsel Ray Biering listening to allegations of misappropriation of funds

When CalCoastNews reported extensively on the unfolding revelations, the IWMA board asked for and received Worrell’s early retirement. Then the board – comprised of 11 county and city elected officials –  voted to retain an independent auditing firm to perform a “deep forensic audit” of the agency’s records. Subsequently, David Walls provided “one or more reports” to IWMA officials, according to Knudson’s lawsuit.

Additionally, a computer expert, Steve Burgess, managed to recover “some or all of the lost data” and provided that information to the IWMA.

In Nov. 2018, reporter Karen Velie made a public request for grant applications made by the IWMA.

Months after the 10-day period that agencies have to respond to records requests, IWMA staff said Velie could pick up the documents. But before her arrival, IWMA staff called back to say investigators from the  district attorney’s office had looked at the documents. The DA investigators asked if they could have them and directed the IWMA not to give reporters the documents, IWMA staff said.

Dow subsequently told Velie that he gave no such direction to the IWMA.

Shortly before the end of 2018, Knudson made a request for IWMA records of the computer forensic audit and the financial audit. A month after that and without getting the records, Knudson asked where the records were. IWMA staff said, first, that they were still working on gathering records, and subsequently that they could not find the reports.

In July 2019, Velie told IWMA staffers that their refusal to provide the records that she and Knudson requested amounted to a violation of the Public Record’s Act. Shortly after that, IWMA staffer Patti Toews said the records both Velie and Knudson requested would be provided to them on thumb drives.

Toews is the sole staffer to remain following CalCoastNews’ reporting. She has said she had no knowledge of the agency corruption which surrounded her.

When Velie arrived at the IWMA offices in August, Brook Stayner, the agency’s new manager, said that Jeff Minnery, IWMA’s attorney, and the District Attorney’s Office had asked that he not provide the records. Even so, Stayner provided records of the grant applications, Velie said.

Later in August, an IWMA staff member told Knudson the records he sought could not be found. On the same day, Stayner wrote in an email that the IWMA had given the records to the District Attorney’s Office. The IWMA did not keep a copy, Stayner wrote.

Knudson was incredulous.

“It defies logic that they would spend tens of thousands of dollars for that computer forensic work and not keep a copy for themselves,” Knudson said. “What was the purpose of doing the research if you were not going to use it.”

Among other demands, the lawsuit seeks a peremptory writ of mandate ordering the respondents to immediately provide all of the documents Knudson sought.

Niles Q

The garbage industry is corrupt in general. From mobsters controlling collection companies and unions, to numerous shifty characters gaming CalRecycle for tens of millions of dollars through fraud in the CRV reimbursements.

It shouldn’t be surprising that the government agency in charge of garbage is corrupt too. Unacceptable but no surprise.

It occurs to me this PI’s investigation, since his report was made public, presents a challenge for LE/DA investigators to do an independent investigation

Just as with OJ’s murder case, publicly exposed testimony and evidence was excluded from his trial and the murderer walked.

That said, CCN should keep after them.

No surrender, no retreat. When all seems lost, that’s when you must bear down.

Remember, pit bulls never let go… (;0)


Good thing Carl Knudson is suing Dan Dow along with the IWMA. Dow has been protecting Adam Hill and his buddies for too long. When Bill Worrell cut and ran, Dow should have been moving in. Dow is in deep and Knudson, an American hero, will prove it.


God bless Mr. Knudsen for being relentless in his efforts to expose the corrupt SOB’s who think the general public are idiots. It’s truly sickening the crap that goes on, and is gotten away with in slo co.


I voted for Dan Dow the first time he ran because he was going to look into corruption, and many of us know about issues with pay-to-play with Adam Hill. But four years later, there were no charges against Hill or the other crooks, most of whom were leaders in the IWMA. Last time I left the DA box empty, didn’t want to vote for either candidate.

I am going to wait until his office is done with the IWMA investigation, if it is clear that people in power, or associated with Dan Dow’s donors, were not charged it will be time to get a new DA. If he leaves part of the rot in, the rot will spread. With the documents, Knudson will make sure the truth comes out.


I’m a bit confused-Who paid this guy for 10 months to investigate for them? How much did that cost, I wonder? Who exactly are the villains and/or mastermind, and who are the innocent victims, again?

Talk about holding a grudge- I know I cant afford to pay a PI, to investigate for 10 months.

This is what I hate about scandals like this- there is more to this than what you read. I wouldn’t be surprised if they all happen to be related to each other- one big happy family…

Charles B

Los Osos


I’m looking forward to Karen Velie being exonerated and made whole after the truth is revealed by Mr. Knudsen. It’s clear now the judgment against her was rendered based on the words of liars and thieves.

Kenneth S

I find that the traditional media does not always have the resources to do an in-depth investigative reporting. I’m grateful that CCN and CCT have been uncovering the wrong doings in our County.

As it is very disturbing to see the misconduct of our elected officials, ie; Dan Dow, the misdeeds of his office and the local Police Agencies. Having come from a long family history of Lawyers, Law Enforcement and Medical family members dating back to the 1960’s to now.

What I find most disturbing is the utter lies, misconduct, subornation of Perjury, destruction of evidence, altering official legal records and out right cover of staff in his own office. His failures not to prosecute his friends and close inner office staff is nothing short of out right Criminal, Unethical conduct.

Yesterday, i learned in detail that Deputy DA and former Judicial Candidate Andy Cadena, has violated not only his office, ethics and moral turpitude but having sexual relations with members of his staff and now one just had his baby. He is married with Children, after reading the State Bar complaints, one area of the rules stood out, it is a requirement that any “Lawyer” must report unethical, illegal, immoral and ALL misconduct. ….

Supreme Court of California upheld on 11-1-18 that it is illegal, unethical under the rules of professional conduct that Mr. Dow and his friend Deputy Andy Cadena violated and still are violating the rule of law and state bar ethics. Rules 8.4.1, 8.4, 8.5 and B&P codes 6100-6077, 6106, 6108 along with County codes, Civil Rights, Discrimination creating a hostile work environment, violating local Civil Service rules and personnel violations. To engage in SEXUAL INAPPROPRIATE misconduct in the DA’s office it bad enough.

But to demote Mr. Cadena to another position and promote one of the woman he was having an illicit affair with and she gets pregnant , Andy is now a new Father this month with another woman one of his subordinates who gets promoted to stay silence ! Is nothing short of a quid quo pro scandal, how many other Male Deputy DA’s having inner office sexual relations with ?

I and others have read several complaints about the DA’s office and they are not good, I believe it is time to impeach and remove Mr. Dow as DA, the cover up is always worse than the crime. Yes, even several Judges and many of the DA’s staff are fully aware of this affair as several have been talking about it openly. It is no longer a secret Mr. Dow, tell the taxpayers the truth….


James Wagstaffe, the lawyer who sued CCN for Tenborg/Adam Hill, has been under investigation by the CA BAR for the past ten months for suborning perjury and fraud on the court. They are all corrupt.


As I recall, the credit card files from 2013 onward were found at the Chairman’s home – Jeff Lee, current mayor Grover Beach and Chair of the IWMA for four years.


This is true. Consider that investigator Knudson still managed to uncover nearly $500,000 in unauthorized and unaccounted-for personal use charges by IWMA employees, and one is left to wonder what Lee must have tried to erase. DA Dan Dow knows about this larceny and theft of public money — and more — yet looks the other way.


Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty—power is ever stealing from the many to the few…. The hand entrusted with power becomes … the necessary enemy of the people. Only by continual oversight can the democrat in office be prevented from hardening into a despot: only by unintermitted Agitation can a people be kept sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity.


Lol, tell that to all the mansion owners in the hills of five cities, paso vineyards, slo etc; while paso citizens live in 2 bedroom dumps with mold and pests for over half their monthly income, run by the Rich Globalist Imperial Capitolists of Dumpy Santa Barbara, or Firestone Blood Beer, or Justin Sinners Vineyards???. Doesn’t our current elected president have “gold doors” on his penthouse in New York? How do I know they’re gold?, my mother worked for the same damn company supplying them!!! At least Nixon didn’t have relations with porn stars or links to Russian aristocrats. And Bush was an oil tycoons son, at least he could oil paint!, he painted the Dalai Llama, in oil, go figure!! Punny right! Your hyper romantic poetry is laughable without any “give me liberty or give me death”. And kick rocks to the rich and selfish! Vote differently everyone, dollar or ballot! Your money is your mouth, so use it wisely, or don’t spend or talk!, how Buddhist and Christ like right? SELF-LESS