EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a multi-part series of articles about San Luis Obispo County’s waste disposal agency. The first reported on the agency’s free-spending use of a public credit card and the lack of credit card documentation of nearly a half-million dollars.
By Cal Coast Times staff
District Attorney Dan Dow has launched an investigation into dubious spending practices at San Luis Obispo County’s public waste disposal agency, a board member of the Integrated Waste Management Authority (IWMA) has reported.
In an email to fellow IWMA board members, Arroyo Grande council member Tim Brown confirmed the district attorney’s investigation and called for a special meeting of the IWMA board to confront the issue. Even though SLO County Suprvisor Adam Hill attempted to squash Brown’s request, a meeting has been tentatively set for Aug. 8.
“The purpose of the meeting is to discuss allegations that have prompted the district attorney’s office to open an investigation. Board members have a legal obligation to inquire and can be held personally liable for not doing so,” Brown wrote.
Part of the board’s discussion will center around a call for a forensic (deep) audit of the agency’s fiscal affairs, made initially by an individual who helped write the original agreement forming the IWMA.
Wayne Hall, a former county official who helped author the Joint Powers Agreement creating the IWMA two decades ago, said IWMA’s manager William (Bill) Worrell has exhibited “blatant disregard for statutory requirements for spending, contracting, and accounting.”
“What does it say when Worrell is buying trucks and forklifts without authorization and giving them to select garbage companies and questionably contracted vendors?” Hall asked in an April letter to the IWMA board. Hall wondered if the IWMA Board is providing proper oversight of Worrell and the agency.
As part of the probe, district attorney investigators recently secured documents from the IWMA’s Osos Street offices, according to IWMA officials.
The district attorney’s actions follow on the heels of a recent report by private investigator Carl Knudson into IWMA’s financial situation underwritten by a local citizens’ group. Knudson, whose career includes more than 25 years as an IRS forensic investigator, found “huge accounting discrepancies and irregularities” in IWMA records involving its entire budget, he said.
Knudson’s final report was forwarded to both the district attorney and the FBI at their requests.
An in-depth probe by Knudson into tax-money abuse at the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District resulted in criminal charges and an eventual guilty plea by the district’s chief engineer, John Wallace of the Wallace Group.
Just weeks into his investigation, Knudson informed his local clients that even after a cursory glance, the IWMA’s financial condition “appears much, much worse” than that of the sanitation district.
Knudson completed his most recent investigation despite efforts by Worrell, who often dragged his heels on Public Records Act requests, obfuscated many responses, and even admitted to destroying all agency records from 2013 back.
Ironically, many of the emails sent by Worrell to Knudson declining to provide specific information contained a quote from German artist Paul Klee: “Should all be known? Oh, I think not.”
The IWMA is comprised of the five county supervisors, representatives of the county’s seven cities, and one at-large member. It is the result of a formal agreement among the government members, and is funded by grants, a “tipping fee” assessed on tonnage of garbage delivered to the county’s waste disposal sites, and additional per-household charges for special programs.
Knudson’s report — the last of three prepared for the citizens’ group — noted that Worrell has managed the agency for the entire 20 years of its existence. In addition, its legal counsel Raymond Biering, and its auditing firm have never changed.
Last year’s audit of the IWMA by the Glenn Burdette firm contained a remarkable 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.”
Knudson also noted what he called “the more serious issues that I uncovered deal with the relationship between Charles K. Tenborg (a former IWMA contractor) and William Worrell.”
NEXT: Charles Tenborg’s history with Worrell and the IWMA.