EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a multi-part series on the unfettered spending of government funds by the county’s waste disposal agency. Carl Knudson’s report and a graph regarding credit card expenses is at the bottom of this article.
By Cal Coast Times staff
A credit card issued without authorization to the manager of San Luis Obispo County’s waste disposal agency has nearly a half-million dollars in undocumented charges as well as many questionable charges, according to a recently-released investigative report by a renowned private investigator.
William Worrell, chief of the Integrated Waste Management Authority (IWMA), acquired the US Bank card in 2010 and since has used it to charge a total of $537,607. When asked to provide credit card receipts and monthly statement under the Public Records Act, Worrell claimed the monthly statements and many of the receipts were exempt from disclosure under privacy rules, which he refused to clarify.
Worrell refused to provide documentation for $445,077 in credit card charges, according to the report.
An intensive, nine-month investigation by Carl Knudson & Associates shows that Worrell, top executive for the entire 20-year existence of the agency, has been able to run IWMA with virtually no oversight from its governing board. He reported that IWMA also is rife with conflicts of interest.
Worrell did not respond to a reporter’s request for comment made after he received the report.
Earlier this month, Knudson delivered to a county citizens group the last of three separate investigation reports, this one spotlighting IWMA procedures. (Two earlier investigations focus on the practices of a contractor and close associate of Worrell’s, Charles K. Tenborg, and will be described later in this series).
All three reports now have been distributed to board members of the IWMA; Worrell; Tenborg; IWMA counsel Raymond Biering; and numerous county and city officials, residents, and other interested parties.
The reports also were requested by, and have been delivered to, District Attorney Dan Dow and the FBI, said county resident Wayne Hall, a spokesman for the citizens’ group.
Knudson noted that he uncovered “transactions that may be personal in nature” in those credit card documents he was able to obtain including the purchase of what appears to be a dishwasher and a refrigerator.
The investigator informed Worrell in May that there were a lot of missing invoices or documents that support the total amounts claimed on the (credit card) warrants.
Knudson was able to examine only records from 2013 to March 2018 because Worrell alleges that he “destroyed” all IWMA records prior to 2013 in that same year. Knudson noted that state law requires public agencies to keep financial records for at least five years.
Worrell, according to Knudson’s report, has also claimed “privilege on many of the critical requested documents” and has declined to provide them as required by law. An IWMA employee, Carolyn Goodrich, also has access to the credit card, Knudson wrote.
The IWMA was created by a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) and has a 12-member board of directors comprised of five county supervisors and representatives of each of the county’s seven municipalities.
The Knudson reports release follows on the heels of a May presentation to the full IWMA board in which Hall charged the agency has “an administrator thinking he has the freedom to spend at will, without oversight, and without limitation.”
Hall, a former county official who helped author the JPA creating the IWMA two decades ago, said IWMA’s manager Worrell has exhibited “blatant disregard for statutory requirements for spending, contracting, and accounting. Huge accounting discrepancies and irregularities” in IWMA records involving its entire budget have been found by the investigators.
The issue with the IWMA’s credit cards is only one of the most brazen examples of a complex financial tapestry created by Worrell, with Knudson providing evidence of poor or even non-existent compliance with basic requirements of the JPA, as well as numerous “suspicious” transactions.
Many IWMA financial records requested by Knudson through public records act requests were not provided; Worrell claimed that he destroyed all pre-2013 records, but would not furnish authorization or justification for doing so.
On one recent occasion when Knudson and Hall went to the IWMA headquarters to examine records, Worrell angrily ordered them from the premises. When a member of the citizens’ group called the IWMA to ask why they had not provided records even though they had been paid for the records, the IWMA receptionist hung up the phone, the group said.
The citizens group has asked the board to order Worrell to release the records as required by law.