Spotlight on SLO County corruption: IWMA

August 9, 2021

SLO County Supervisor Adam Hill hiding his face while a reporter took pictures.


The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors asked staffers to create a plan to leave the controversial Integrated Waste Management Authority after the agency voted for a countywide ban on polystyrene (Styrofoam is a trademarked brand of extruded polystyrene). The supervisors wanted staff to figure out how much it would cost.

Staff tasked MSW Consultants with comparing the costs of staying in the IWMA versus handling waste management by the county. But the comparison was not an apples-to-apples match.

MSW Consultants estimated the cost to the county of leaving the IWMA and included an incoming state mandate regarding food waste. Its IWMA comparison did not factor in the cost of hiring new inspectors to comply with the new rule.

The IWMA Board of Directors voted in June to increase operating costs and fees to residents to fund compliance with the new state mandate. But its staff failed to procure the required Proposition 218 approval, and is unlikely to be able to collect the cost of following the new state mandate.

The MSW comparison also concluded that it would cost $400,000 for county residents’ use of local household hazardous waste facilities. The total yearly costs of the facility is $900,000 a year. But county residents make up only 25 percent of the total users. It’s not clear how 25 percent of users would account for 44 percent of the cost of the facility.

It would cost SLO County between $1,585,400 and $2,084,000 more a year for the county to leave the IWMA, MSW concluded.

SLO County Supervisor Bruce Gibson promoting the IWMA polystyrene ordinance

County staffers then suggested that the supervisors consider renegotiating the IWMA agreement. That suggestion has the support of SLO County Supervisor Bruce Gibson and his close friend and interim director of the IWMA, Paavo Ogren.

Over the past two weeks, Ogren has lobbied trash haulers and public officials to stay in the IWMA with assurances the agency will operate legitimately moving forward.

For decades, staff ran the IWMA with virtually no supervision from its governing board. Multiple investigations by CalCoastNews and Carl Knudson & Associates found hundreds of thousands of dollars in unaccounted for spending. Among charges that were reviewed were payments for video rentals, online shopping, expensive meals, a business license in Georgia and to pay for personal phone bills.

The SLO County District Attorney’s Office announced in 2018 that it was investigating the IWMA for possible fraud. Last week, prosecutors charged the former board secretary of the IWMA with 10 felonies — nine for embezzlement and one for destruction of public records.

Ogren claims to have cleaned up the IWMA, but long-time secretary Patti Toews and  attorneys with Adamski, Moroski, Madden, Cumberland & Green remain in the positions they occupied during the agency’s suspect spending.

The SLO County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss whether or not to leave the IWMA on Tuesday morning.

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Seriously, when are we finally going to get rid of Paavo Ogren, Bruce’s buddy and the poster child for corruption in SLO County in Adam Hill’s absence? Seriously, look at this guy’s history. CCN needs to do a recap piece. So much corruption over so long a time.