Questionable spending at SLO County IWMA may be probed

IWMA Administrator Bill Worrell and legal counsel Ray Biering

Editor’s note: The Wayne Hall letter requesting an audit of the San Luis Obispo County Integrated Waste Management Authority is at the bottom of this story.

By Cal Coast Times staff

San Luis Obispo County’s public agency responsible for waste disposal is awash in suspicious financial improprieties and has not been properly audited for the two decades of its existence, a former high-ranking county administrator has told the agency’s board of directors.

Wayne Hall delivered a blistering letter to board members of the Integrated Waste Management Authority (IWMA) earlier this month calling for a forensic audit of the IWMA’s handling of tax dollars entrusted to it. Hall was sharply critical of the agency’s “blatant disregard for statutory requirements for spending, contracting, and accounting.”

Hall was an assistant county administrative officer and later chief executive officer of the SLO County Superior Court. He was a primary author of the joint powers agreement that created the IWMA.  His letter was read to the board by county resident Mark London.

While London spoke, SLO County Supervisor Adam Hill took photos of London from the podium. Hill later hid his face behind a sheet of paper while a reporter took photos.

The call to put a discussion for a deep audit of IWMA’s money management on the next agenda was met with vociferous opposition from two county supervisors and board members Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson.

“I don’t understand the purpose,” Hill said. “Every time someone comes forward, we should give an audit?”

IWMA attorney Ray Biering wanted to limit the discussion of an audit to a three member executive committee, but was shot down as board members argued the issue should be heard by the entire board. While Biering is paid as inside legal counsel, his firm is paid for outside legal work without a bidding process or board approval, according to investigator Carl Knudson.

Gibson, who often votes lockstep with Hill, also opposed a financial examination of IWMA’s practices.

“There is no need for an audit,” Gibson said. “There have been no improprieties.”

The IWMA has been superficially audited each of the past 20 years. The audit is provided with limited data by IWMA manager William Worrell, according to the audit firm.

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

After board vice-chair Tom O’Malley, an Atascadero council member, suggested an audit be conducted by their usual auditor and IWMA counsel Ray Biering, Gibson responded, “Why even go with an audit?”

IWMA board member and Arroyo Grande Councilman Tim Brown disagreed with Hill’s and Gibson’s arguments that a basic audit is sufficent noting that the misspending that occurred at the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District could have been uncovered years earlier if a forensic audit had been done.

“I disagree. We need a full-throated discussion about an audit. We need a through review.”

Following a contentious discussion, the board nevertheless voted unanimously to place on its next meeting agenda in September a discussion of an audit designed to deep examine the agency’s fiscal practices and also a review of the IWMA’s joint powers agreement.

Neglect by the IWMA board has nurtured questionable spending and accounting habits on the part of IWMA’s management. Major capital outlays have had no authorization from, or oversight by, the 13-member board of directors, Hall wrote. He suggested that the board’s stewardship of taxpayer dollars has been seriously inadequate over the agency’s lifetime.

The annual audit of the IWMA, conducted last year by the Glenn Burdette firm, concluded with the auditors’ disclaimer that despite its “responsibility to express opinions of (IWMA’s) financial statements,” the firm could “express no such opinion on the effectiveness of (IWMA’s) internal control.” The firm said it could not “provide any assurance on the information (provided by IWMA) because limited procedures do not provide us with sufficient evidence to express an opinion or provide any assurance.”

Hall said he is a “concerned citizen” who has been “assisting a group that has been investigating IWMA.”

Hall told the board that “we have found huge accounting discrepancies and irregularities. Your administrator (Worrell) destroys critical accounting records without approval from the board.

What does it say when this same administrator is buying trucks and forklifts without authorization and giving them to select garbage companies and questionably contracted vendors? What does it say when your administrator gives huge amounts of money to vendors that don’t exist?”

It says, according to Hall, that the board “has an administrator with no regard for the law and (who has) serious conflicts of interest.”

Wayne Hall’s letter to the IWMA Board of Directors:

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3 Comments about “Questionable spending at SLO County IWMA may be probed”

  1. Last Individual says:

    How can Gibson possibly make the absolute statement “There have been no improprieties.” without intimate involvement in the everyday workings of the IWMA. Even then it would be nearly impossible for him to be absolutely certain of what he is saying. If what he is saying is true, then an audit would show that. If he is really that close to the workings of the IWMA, maybe he knows an audit would not, if fact, confirm his statement, and he might even be involved in questionable actions an audit might reveal.

    I can’t believe Hill photographed the speaker. This was clearly for intimidation. I wonder what would have happened if the speaker tried to video record the board reactions while he was making his presentation. Even if the presenter was allowed to do that, Hill would have had paper in front of his face the whole time.

    I agree with Shenanigan. If Gibson and Hill are against it, I’m for it.

    (5) 5 Total Votes – 5 up – 0 down
  2. seeker says:

    Were any readers at the meeting? I hear that it turned into a shouting match by the chair and other members opposing the audit.

    (5) 7 Total Votes – 6 up – 1 down
  3. Shenanigan says:

    Stop.

    Adam Hill hid his face behind a piece of paper?

    Adam Hill took a photo of a speaker at the podium?????

    If Gibson and Hill are against it, I’m for it.

    (10) 12 Total Votes – 11 up – 1 down

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