Spotlight on SLO County corruption: IWMA

August 9, 2021

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

By KAREN VELIE

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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Jorge Estrada

I can read why the County of SLO wants distance from the IWMA / personal expense account. The county taxpayers may benefit by allowing other operations to be contracted out too? The best scenario would be to have the Board of Supervisors setting policy and oversight to the staff that has oversight with the contractors / consultants.


SLO Friend

pavo ogren is now overseeing the iwma – what organization has this individual not infiltrated, bringing along his band of like-minded merry men for advice.


Does he not have anything else to occupy his time? Family, wife, dog? What about a nice highway trash pickup program.


He seems to have the Smartest Person in the Room Syndrome – thinking you should know all the answers, thinking you have all the answers, bulging forehead blood vessels, shouting down the opposition and an impulsive need to demonize or ruin your adversary.


kayaknut

More likely it is a case of Paavo knowing where many of the bodies are buried, so those responsible for the bodies throw him taxpayer funded bones all the time so he will keep quiet about the locations. Paavo may have also hinted about setting that agreement up to keep him quiet. Paavo show up to run an agency in trouble, typically screws it up even more, then leaves and waits for his next job. All the while lapping it up at the taxpayer trough.


shishkabob141

He left Oceano when their bank account could no longer sustain his salary.

He’s a government hog at any trough with enough slop in it to feed at.


info

Just think if we lived in a socialist state (i.e. China, Belarus,etc.). Josh, Daniel, Karen would be silenced and corruption would continue unabated. Oh wait, just a matter of time.


OnlyinSLO

If I recall correctly, various agency staff participated in monthly budget reviews of the IWMA. I would really like to see the names of all agency staff who were involved in these committees.

Also, whatever happen to Peter Cron, Jennifer McIntyre and other former IWMA staff? Were they involved?

What ever happened to the stories involving the IWMA sole sourcing contracts to Bill Worrell’s buddy Charles Temborg? Will there be any follow-up on the sole sourcing issue which violates California Law?

I find it ironic that Pavo Ogren is now there to clean up the IWMA. The County with it’s legal counsel were intimately involved in this debacle and now he is there to save the say, or cover up as much as he can now for his buddy Bill Worrell.

If I also remember correctly, a Calcoast story or on-line reveal of Knudsens investigation suggested tens of millions of dollars were embezzled. So, how much was embezzled or unaccounted for? If Worrell was such a brilliant manager of solid waste how did a lowly secretary embezzle over a half million dollars under his nose?

Lastly, why has it taken so long for Dan Dow and his crank team of investigators to follow-up on the road map with details provided by Knudsen? Did Dow just want the statute of limitations to expire for his buddy Worrell?

Will investigators now look into the Los Osos Community Services District, since the same players are now involved there?


When will Gibson resign? He has been intimately involved in the IWMA for years and missed this kind of embezzlement?


Nightrider

Gibson and Ogren are now the Top Leeches that have Sucked enough Blood from the Taxpayers of SLO County.

Time to Go!

AH is no longer taking the spotlight off You!

Gas would be a better way to remove a pest,

Leeches or Ticks,

Something.


Mitch C

Bruce, please retire.


obispan

IWMA, APCD, RWQCB… all fiefdoms that set their own salaries and supervise themselves. These need to brought back under the umbrella of SLO County at great savings to the taxpayer.


Buchon

I wonder how many taxpayer $$$ Gibson has found tumbling his way over the years? Of course he wants to preserve his cash cow! Same for Ogren! I wish Knudson would really climb up Gibson’s colon…


I’m also curious. Didn’t SLO County have the talent to do this analysis in-house? Why the need to engage MSW Consultants? A little prophylactic CYA going on?


obispan

“Consultants” are hired to work with county staff to justify pre-determined outcomes at unnecessary expense to provide political cover in addition to their normal influence peddling and revolving door public/private employment and associated corruption.


Hazmateer

It’s time to dissolve the IWMA. It served its purpose of creating the structure to comply with AB939 back in the late 80s and early 90s. Its Technical Advisory Committee hasn’t met in over 25 years, so it clearly doesn’t have any pressing issues that need to be addressed. Now it’s just a self-perpetuating bureaucracy that isn’t needed. The remaining maintenance functions can be fulfilled by a portion of a position at the County, at huge savings to the taxpayers.