Several months ago, former Los Osos Community Services Director Lisa Schicker accused SLO County Public Works Director Paavo Ogren of having a conflict of interest with Montgomery Watson Harza (MWH). County Counsel Warren Jensen later shot down the claim, saying there was no evidence to support it. On December 16, Los Osos resident Al Barrow asked Johnathan Bishop, Coastal Planner of the California Coastal Commission about a possible conflict of interest involving SLO County Board of Supervisor Khatchik “Katcho” Achadjian serving as a representative. However, in that case, all voting representatives of the CCC represent a local government in their respective region. Section 30318 of the Coastal Act protects members and representatives’ vote and influence:
Nothing in this division shall preclude or prevent any member or employee of the commission who is also an employee of another public agency, a county supervisor or city councilperson, member of the Association of Bay Area Governments, member of the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments, delegate to the Southern California Association of Governments, or member of the San Diego Comprehensive Planning Organization, and who has in that designated capacity voted or acted upon a particular matter, from voting or otherwise acting upon that matter as a member or employee of the commission. Nothing in this section shall exempt any such member or employee of the commission from any other provision of this article.
It begs the question. What is conflict of interest?
Continue reading The Conflict of Interest Conflict →
2009 was the year that included the removal of STEP/STEG and other alternatives from the County Los Osos Wastewater Project’s design-build process, a formal complaint against Public Works director Paavo Ogren and hours of tedious — but sometimes heated — debate at the Planning Commission meetings. Along the way, mistakes were made on both sides of the debate while everyone hopelessly expected some of the bigger problems to be mitigated. Contrary to what the County of San Luis Obispo has said, the County has unanimously sided with County staff recommendations with each and every turn involving the LOWWP. With hope fading in their eyes, a small group of Los Osos residents pleaded with the board to reconsider their decisions, but the board moved ahead. Those with the loudest objections to the County were silenced with Supervisor Bruce Gibson’s wave of the hand, a chuckle out of pity and a quick tug of the microphone plug — and the microphone was off. On a few occasions, Gibson asserted that most of the people of Los Osos approved of their handling of the process, but do they?
Whether you like it or not, it’s unarguable the County made an incredible amount of what they would call “progress.” The Planning Commission moved forward with the project, changing many of the project conditions, most of which remained uncontested by the Board of Supervisors. The BOS successfully paved a clear path for the project to be considered by the California Coastal Commission, which will discuss the LOWWP and the appeals in January of next year. The County also managed to secure consideration for USDA grant money (through a population waiver) thanks to the provision on Los Osos added to the Fiscal Year 2010 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which President Obama signed into law. Let’s not forget the $35 million dollar authorization in the Water Resources Development Act, which is available for federal appropriation. The only problem is that after lingering fees and changes relevant to the sewer, which include paying off the interest of the USDA’s $64 million loan, Los Osos residents may not actually see the savings.
For now, let’s take a look at what’s happened in 2009 and check out the highlights.
The Tribune published their poisoned tongue-and-cheek editorial “Bouquets and Brickbats” with the first five paragraphs dedicated to Lisa Schicker’s complaint.
The editorial compares the accusation against San Luis Obispo Public Works Director Paavo Ogren with a drowsy attempt at being funny. The Tribune compares the complaint to some obsession over the Kardashian family. For those who didn’t recognize the pop culture reference or it went over their head, click here.
Continue reading The Tribune Should Call Off Its Fatwa Against Los Osos →
Former CSD president Lisa Schicker posted a letter to the editor in The Tribune today:
In a July editorial, this paper praised county supervisors for firing David Edge and Gail Wilcox, saying their conduct “raises the specter of favoritism and gives the public another reason to distrust county government.”
Here’s another reason to distrust: the dismissal of a 1,000-plus page referenced complaint against Paavo Ogren, public works director.
Contrary to County Counsel Warren Jensen’s assertions (Tribune, Aug. 19), I believe the complaint contained evidence suggesting Ogren’s involvement in self-dealing, bid-rigging, conflict of interest, violation of design-build law and improper contract procurement processing.
Evidence describes Ogren’s history of recommending no-bid public contracts and approving expensive change orders to the same firms over and over — firms he worked for as a private consultant.
The Board of Supervisors just ended a similar no-bid contract with attorney Clay Hall’s firm, going out to competitive bid for the first time in years.
According to Jensen, most of the evidence in the Ogren complaint remains unread and uninvestigated. Some of the evidence requires further internal investigations.
Supervisors say they won’t tolerate unprofessional behavior and serious allegations remain. Supervisors, please demand a full, independent inquiry into Ogren’s involvement with the Los Osos Wastewater Project and its links to the Los Osos Community Services District’s 2001 sewer contracts and the Lopez Dam retrofit contracts; county taxpayers deserve nothing less.
Lisa Schicker Former president and board member, Los Osos Community Services District
For comments regarding the letter, click on “Continue Reading.”
Continue reading Schicker Alleges “Distrust” in Tribune Letter to Editor →
During his office hours in Los Osos on Thursday, SLO County Board of Supervisors chairman Bruce Gibson confirmed that the board will proceed with the analysis of former LOCSD president Lisa Schicker’s conflict-of-interest complaint.
Also appearing at the office hours was Paavo Ogren, the subject of Schicker’s complaint. He appeared shaken as he, for the first time, addressed the allegations.
“I think it’s absurd, it really is,” said Ogren, who lowered his head in exasperation. “I never worked with Montgomery Watson-Harza. [The allegations] are just ridiculous.”
After LOCAC board member Linde Owen got in a series of heated exchanges with Ogren, Gibson stated, “[The complaint] is a textbook case of a series of assertions. I’ve read most of the complaint and I don’t see any indications of conflict of interest — none at all.”
In his defense, Ogren later stated that he never worked with Montgomery Watson-Harza. In fact, he worked on a team that competed against MWH — around the time the LOCSD started to work with MWH — but he never mentioned the team he was working with at the time.
Ironically, Gibson declined to comment on pending personnel investigations involving Wilcox/Edge and Ghezzi/Keller.
For additional commentary, click on “Read More”
Continue reading County to Continue Analysis of Schicker Complaint →