CalCoastNews and Ratepayers Lose Big in SLO County District Attorney’s IWMA Report

Aaron Ochs
4 min readSep 28, 2021
SLO County government logo (SOURCE: Facebook)

Last week, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s office released their final report on the controversial Integrated Waste Management Authority (IWMA). Though the report faulted IWMA officials for violating internal rules, not properly handling accounting records and lacking transparency, the DA’s office found no widescale fraud. However, the report served as the foundation for arresting former IWMA secretary Carolyn Goodrich for embezzlement and document destruction. The DA did not find criminal charges were worth filing for anyone else involved in the agency.

The 51-page report spent a great deal assessing criminal allegations made by CalCoastNews, the mysterious “citizens group” supporting them, and Carl Knudson, the private investigator hired by said group.

Let’s briefly recap how we got to this point.

In 2012, CalCoastNews published an article alleging that Charles Tenborg, a former hazardous waste contractor, illegally procured a no-bid contract with the IWMA under then-general manager William Worrell, among other allegations. Tenborg subsequently sued the website for libel. In 2017, the libel suit went to trial and Tenborg won. He was awarded $1.1 million in damages. CalCoastNews appealed the verdict and lost. Then Karen Velie, co-author of the 2012 article, personally filed a lawsuit against Tenborg, alleging he committed perjury and fraud on the court. Velie lost the lawsuit, appealed and dropped her appeal this year.

Meanwhile, in 2017, a group of private citizens supporting CalCoastNews commissioned Knudson to investigate and uncover issues with the IWMA. CalCoastNews originally claimed Knudson was commissioned to “reexamine details” of their 2012 article. Knudson found the IWMA had a series of unexplained and personal expenses that weren’t properly approved; that the IWMA improperly and possibly unlawfully destroyed documents; that Tenborg lied and committed perjury during the libel trial. In response to Knudson’s allegations, the DA did acknowledge several issues Knudson raised, but they could not find criminality.

The DA’s office also disputed their investigation findings had nothing to do with the demonstrably unsubstantiated allegations that CalCoastNews made…

Aaron Ochs

Author, artist, advocate and entrepreneur from Morro Bay, California.