SLO County’s waste agency to pay $44,670 to settle lawsuit

September 13, 2021

Carl Knudson

By KAREN VELIE

San Luis Obispo County’s waste management agency has agreed to release records and pay $44,670 in legal costs in an agreement to resolve a public records request lawsuit brought by private investigator Carl Knudson.

The agreement also calls for the court to retain jurisdiction over the case for purposes of enforcing the settlement agreement. If the SLO County Integrated Waste Management Authority (IWMA) fails to release any of the agreed-to public documents, Knudson’s attorney Paul Boylan can bring the issue back to court.

Knudson came to San Luis Obispo following a libel suit brought by an IWMA private contractor against CalCoastNews and two of its reporters. CalCoastNews began the first of a series of investigative articles in 2012 about the IWMA, its contractors and practices that they engaged in.

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

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

In Knudson’s 10-month investigation of the 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 a IWMA contractor unlawfully filed false claims to CalRecycle for 17 consecutive months. Other documents showed an ongoing pattern of unlawful waste disposal practices by both the IWMA and its contractor.

Knudson provided SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow with his reports and accompanying documents. Dow contacted IWMA’s then-manager William Worrell to request that the IWMA retain all records.

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

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. Agency officials also authorized and carried out the deletion of voluminous computer records.

In Nov. 2018, a CalCoastNews reporter  made a public records 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 the reporter 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, and then asked the IWMA not to release the records.

Shortly before the end of 2018, Knudson made a request for IWMA records of a computer forensic audit and a 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.

Knudson, who spent 23 years as an IRS special agent and whose work helped dismantle a Colombian drug cartel, filed a public records lawsuit in late 2019 against the IWMA to force the release of records, some of which had been sought for more than seven years.

Last month, the district attorney charged former IWMA board secretary Carolyn Goodrich with 10 felonies — nine for embezzlement and one for destruction of public records. Last week, the embattled agency agreed to abide by the Public Records Act and release the documents Knudson requested. The IWMA will also reimburse Knudson $44,670 for court costs and attorney’s fees.


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OnlyinSLO

Understand this readers if it wasn’t for Calcoast News and their topnotch dedicated journalist we would still be being robbed by the IWMA thieves. If it wasn’t for Calcoast News and … PB Companies with Ryan Petitte / Wright or whatever his or its name is unsuspecting investors would still be scammed every day. If it wasn’t for … Kelly Gearheart and his team of crooks would still be conning members of our community. It if wasn’t for … Adam Hill and his cronies would still be stealing and bullying all of us. If it wasn’t for … Helios Dayspring or whatever his real name is would still be bribing public officials. If it wasn’t for …. Ron Faria would still be misappropriating City property for personal gain. It if … well you get the picture. If it wasn’t for … Adam Hill would be King Adam with Senator Dow right next to him doing his bidding. So subscribe, so that they can fend off the next meritless lawsuit funded by local officials and crooked business people and corrupt public staff.


SLOBodan

Great reporting, CCN! But, will William (the worm) Worrell ever be prosecuted? He runs and hides, and lets his secretary take the fall. Hopefully he will also have to man up to what he has done.


kayaknut

And exactly where will the money come from, the ratepayers, yeah that’ll show them.


indabarrel

Finally some journalism on the central coast. Thank you CCN..


shishkabob141

When will Cal Coast News be made whole now that it’s been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt what a bunch of lying, thieving and corrupt bunch of crooks the IWMA is infested with?


slo-to-load

Kudos to CCN for doing what it does best and continuing to shine a spotlight on the giant cluster F that is the IWMA!


It’s been almost a decade since IWMA corruption was first reported and DA Dow has finally brought charges against just one person? The corruption here goes far beyond Goodrich. What about charging IWMA chief William Worrell? This all happened on his watch. How much of the half a million did he embezzle? It’s unfortunate that DA Dow has obviously been asleep at the wheel on this one, but he’s never shown much of an appetite to pursue white collar crime until it’s right in his face and impossible to ignore. It’s time to dig deep, lean in, and bring the rest of this corrupt enterprise to justice.


Side note: What is it about these waste agencies that breeds corruption? John Wallace also ripped off the county for millions via the corrupt sanitation districts that he ran. I guess these low life scumbags are attracted to it as (quite literally) flies to crap!


IronHub

Of course, the Tribune and New Times can’t bring themselves to admit they ignored this story, castigated the CalCoastNews reporters at every opportunity, and declined offers to receive the same info that CCN had. So CCN was right all along, and the lawsuit, it is now known, was won by a liberal use of perjury by the IWMA crowd. Shameful!


IronHub

Reminder to DA Dan Dow: There is no statute of limitations for the crime of embezzlement of public funds in California. Just like murder. It has something to do with protecting the public’s trust. Get it? Bill Worrell? That contractor? Jeff Lee? And….?


Jorge Estrada

It’s great that the process uncovered wrong doings and that the process won expenses. Ok, they were bad and had to pay the expense to get caught, well?, is that all there is? This can only be the start for justice when you consider their trail of carnage.