As investigation continues, SLO County’s waste division promises taxpayers transparency

Posted at 8:41 PM, Aug 29, 2018

San Luis Obispo County waste management is promising taxpayers more transparency after alleged misuse of hundreds of thousands of dollars of public funds.

The investigation into those allegations of possible misuse of nearly $450,000 is still ongoing.

On Wednesday, the Integrated Waste Management Authority met to discuss former manager Bill Worrell’s letter of resignation. Earlier this month, the IWMA placed Worrell on administrative leave until his planned retirement of Sept. 11.

Instead, Worrell gave a two-week notice and ended his employment with the IWMA on Aug. 23. Attached to the meeting’s agenda was Worrell’s letter to the board informing them of his retirement.

"My decision to retire is primarily based on my desire to spend more time with my family," the letter stated. "Finally, I have addressed the issues raised by the current investigation."

The IWMA is contractually obligated to pay Worrell remaining vacation and sick time. Legal counsel for the IWMA warned against withholding any funds, saying it could put the IWMA in legal jeopardy. If the investigation, which is still being looked into by the San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s Office, finds wrongdoing, the IWMA could go after funds paid to Worrell.

While the process plays out, the board agreed on a new interim leader in a 7-4 vote, Mike Giancola, who has spent 25 years in the solid waste industry.

"I think the choice today in our general manager is something that will rebuild that trust and the audit is going to rebuilt that trust and working and cooperating with the district attorney with the investigation, wherever that may lead will provide the transparency and the accountability the agency needs to move forward," said Jeff Lee, IWMA Board president.

The waste authority deals with thousands of tons of waste each week and is now handling an earful from taxpayers about the lack of transparency.

Giancola says the IWMA is righting wrongs by taking action.

"[Taking action] is what we always want a taxpayer and as anyone who works in the public sector, to identify issues when they come up, investigate them and you address the issues," he said.

Giancola’s contract is three months with options to extend if needed. The board also agreed to hire an independent firm to conduct the audit, but will put out bids for the process. That process will take several months before an audit can begin.

Related: Manager of SLO County’s Integrated Waste Management Agency placed on leave, faces allegations