Friday, June 26, 2009

District 2 Parks Commissioner, Pandora Nash-Karner, "Absent"

The Parks Commissioner for San Luis Obispo County's "District 2," that includes Los Osos, has missed almost half of the Parks Commission meetings over the past year, a SewerWatch investigation reveals.

According to meeting minutes, and SLO County Parks Department staff, Parks Commissioner, Pandora Nash-Karner, was "absent" for the June 2008, September 2008, February 2009, May 2009, and June 2009 Commission meetings.

Nash-Karner missed the May 2009, and last night's June meeting due to an "extended vacation," according to an official source.

The SLO County Parks Commission meets once a month.

"I don't see her attendance has in any way lessened her effectiveness," District 2 Supervisor, Bruce Gibson, wrote in an e-mail for this story.

Gibson (re)appointed Nash-Karner to the position at the beginning of his term in 2007, after Nash-Karner publicly endorsed, and financially donated to, Gibson's campaign for Supervisor, as first reported on SewerWatch.

After being informed (by SewerWatch) that his appointment to the Parks Commission was on the verge of missing her fifth meeting out of the past 13, Gibson replied, "Which is average for Commissioners."

Records show that the average number of meetings missed by the other four Parks Commissioners over the past year is about one.

Furthermore, in an e-mail dated, January 22, 2008, Nash-Karner, wrote to the Los Osos Community Advisory Council, "I am pleased you've asked me to provide a brief update on SLO County Parks each month."

She added, "Our role is to advise the Board of Supervisors and assist the Department of General Services in the policy, planning and development of the County's Park system. The commission is not involved in personnel matters (although I have sat on the interview panel for several top level staff positions)"

On 5/19/09, SewerWatch filed a public records request with county officials, asking for, among other things, "a list of all 'interview panels' that Pandora Nash-Karner has 'sat on' involving 'top level staff positions' for SLO County government.

According to State law, "Each agency, upon a request for a copy of records, shall, within 10 days from receipt of the request, determine whether the request, in whole or in part, seeks copies of disclosable public records in the possession of the agency and shall promptly notify the person making the request of the determination and the reasons therefore."

As of 5/29/09, county officials had yet to reply to SewerWatch's public records request.

On 6/1/09, SewerWatch sent another e-mail to county officials, that read, in part, "SLO County government is currently in violation of State law."

That same day, Warren Jensen, Counsel for SLO County government, replied, "My staff will follow up with the HR Director tomorrow and will let you know more about the availability of the records you seek."

He added, "I apologize for not responding earlier. As you may be aware, we have been rather busy lately and we are short-handed. I forwarded your original request to the HR Director on 5/21/09, for information needed to make a response but she has not had time to reply with the needed information. I just sent her a reminder and will have my staff follow up with her tomorrow."

"It may turn out that the only way to find panels in which Ms. Nash-Karner served will be to manually examine all recruitments, one by one, to see who served on each panel. If that is the case, the County will allow you to examine limited portions of each recruitment file for the purpose of identifying persons who served on each interview panel and to identify the position being recruited."

At the time of the publication of this story (6/26/09), SLO County officials have yet to contact SewerWatch to "examine limited portions of each recruitment file for the purpose of identifying persons who served on each interview panel and to identify the position being recruited."

Nash-Karner was first appointed to the Parks Commission in 1991, by then-2nd District Supervisor, Bud Laurent.

In 2006, Laurent told SewerWatch that Nash-Karner, a marketing specialist, worked as his "campaign materials manager" during his run for Supervisor in 1990. (Note: Laurent defeated then-2nd District Supervisior, Bill Coy, in the 1990 election. At the time, Coy told this reporter that he favored continuing with the county's sewer development process for Los Osos. Laurent opposed that process... for eight years.)

In 1994, Nash-Karner, along with her husband, Gary Karner, was also a member of the original Los Osos Community Advisory Council. 1994 LOCAC documents acquired by this reporter include the Karner's home address in the letterhead.

In 1995, LOCAC produced a document known as the "Los Osos Vision Statement." In that document, it reads, "It is essential that any proposed wastewater project within the community of Los Osos reflect these strongly held community values (of) creating a wastewater treatment facility that is a visual and recreational asset to the community."

The LO Vision Statement is signed by eight people. Two of them are Pandora Nash-Karner, and Gary Karner.

In 1997, Nash-Karner formed, along with her husband, and fellow former LOCAC member, Gary Karner, "The Solution Group," a small group of Los Osos residents that developed an "alternative" sewer system to the County of SLO's "ready to go" sewer project that county officials had spent some seven years, and $6 million designing.

In her role as "marketing director" for The Solution Group, Nash-Karner, throughout 1998, repeatedly told Los Osos residents that her "alternative" sewer project would be "better, cheaper, faster" than the county's "ready to go" 1998 project, and that her project would have a "maximum monthly payment of $38.75."

In a 1998 Solution Group newsletter, Nash-Karner labeled the county's project as "ruinously expensive."

The Solution Group's "better, cheaper, faster" alternative would play a key role in forming the Los Osos Community Services District in 1998.

Two other attempts to form a CSD in Los Osos in the 1990s, failed, according to news reports. [Note: Both attempts were covered by this reporter.]

In the same November 1998 election that formed the LOCSD, Nash-Karner, along with two other Solution Group members, Stan Gustafson, and Gordon Hensley, were also elected to the initial Los Osos CSD Board of Directors, with Nash-Karner serving as vice-president.

According to news reports (also covered by this reporter), one of the first official acts by the new LOCSD Board -- whose new authority also included "wastewater" -- was to discontinue pursuit of the county's 1998, "ready to go" project, and begin pursuit of the Solution Group's "better, cheaper, faster" alternative project.

In a recent blog comment, former LOCSD Director, Richard LeGros (recalled in 2005), wrote, "Yes, the Solution Group plan deep-sixed the County's Plan (in 1999)." [Note: According to, Nash-Karner endorsed LeGros in his run for LOCSD Director in 2002.]

In July, 2000, this reporter wrote a cover story for the local weekly newspaper, New Times, titled, Problems With the Solution. That story chronicled how the the Solution Group's "better, cheaper, faster" alternative project was on the verge of failing.

In August of 2000, just one month after Problems With the Solution was published, this reporter learned at a LOCSD meeting, that the Solution Group's "better, cheaper, faster" alternative project had failed.

Two independent studies from 1998 (both first exposed by this reporter), showed that the Solution Group's project was inferior in every way to the county's then-"ready to go" project. Both reports were released before the November 1998 election.

In one of those reports, then-permit supervisor for the California Coastal Commission, Steve Monowitz, wrote, "Pursuit of the Solution Group alternative also has the potential to result in significant delays to the implementation of a wastewater treatment project for the Los Osos area."

Monowitz added, "Any delay or failure in the attempt to eliminate the use of individual septic systems in this area will allow adverse impacts to groundwater and water resources associated with the use of individual septic systems to persist. These impacts include a decline in the health and biological productivity of the Morro Bay National Estuary due to increasing levels of nitrates and bacteria."

After serving only one term as an LOCSD Director, Nash-Karner, according to Gary Karner, then submitted a bid to the LOCSD for $700,000 for public relations services.

She did not get the contract. However, according to a Tribune report, that $600,000-plus contract eventually went to someone named Maria Singleton.

Singleton's contract, according to the report, allowed her to hire "other assistants" at up to $80/hour.

SewerWatch has attempted several times to contact Singleton to ask her if Nash-Karner was ever one of her "other assistants." However, Singleton has yet to be located.

Former reporter/editor, Dan Blackburn, recently told SewerWatch, that, when working as a reporter for New Times in 2003, he went to the LOCSD offices to interview Singleton about her PR contract.

"When I got to their office, Pandora Nash-Karner was there with Maria Singleton," Blackburn said. "She (Nash-Karner) had tea and cookies waiting for me."

Beginning in 2003, Nash-Karner also started a "group" known as "Save the Dream," to promote the LOCSD's second sewer project at the Tri-W site.

In a newsletter -- one of many -- produced by Nash-Karner for Save the Dream, it reads, "Our goals are to: 1) Support the Los Osos Wastewater Project as proposed by the LOCSD."

[Note: After the Solution Group's/initial LOCSD Board's "better, cheaper, faster" project failed in August 2000, the LOCSD Board pursued a second sewer project, that also included a treatment facility at the Tri-W site.

The Solution Group's/initial LOCSD Board's "better, cheaper, faster" project, according to Solution Group documents, included a treatment facility to be built in the middle of Los Osos, on a site known as the Tri-W site, because that site was the only location in the area that was large enough to accommodate the proposed treatment facility -- a facility comprised of a series of "drop dead gorgeous" ponds, that required "50 - 70 acres."

After their first project failed, the LOCSD turned to a vastly different project that required only "5 - 7 acres," and included, instead of "drop dead gorgeous" ponds, an industrial sewer plant. However the 2001 LOCSD Board retained the Tri-W site for their vastly redesigned second project, claiming in their Facilities Report, "The size and location of the other sites did not provide an opportunity to create a community amenity. The sites on the outskirts of town could not deliver a community use area that was readily accessible to the majority of residents..."

and, straight from the Vision Statement;

"It is essential that any proposed wastewater project within the community of Los Osos reflect these strongly held community values (of) creating a wastewater treatment facility that is a visual and recreational asset to the community."]

[Note: Both quotes were first exposed by this reporter in a September, 22, 2004 New Times cover story, Three Blocks Upwind of Downtown.]

According to a recent community survey conducted by SLO County officials, "Only (9-percent) of (Los Osos Prohibition Zone) respondents chose the mid-town (Tri-W) location" as their preferred location for a sewer plant.

Nash-Karner was re-appointed to the Parks Commission in 1999 by Bud Laurent's successor to the District 2 Supervisor seat, Shirley Bianchi.

Bianchi, according to reports (covered by this reporter), was a vocal supporter of the Solution Group/initial LOCSD Board.

Additionally, as first exposed by SewerWatch, Nash-Karner is also known for developing, and implementing, a "strategy" in 2005 -- just one day after a successful recall election that removed former Solution Group members Gustafson and Hensley, along with like-minded, Richard LeGros, from the LOCSD Board of Directors -- to have the entire town of Los Osos "fined out of existence" in an attempt to preserve the LOCSD's second attempt at a sewer plant at the mid-town Tri-W site (the Solution Group's failed "better, cheaper, faster" project was their first attempt).

On the morning of Wednesday, September 28, 2005, Nash-Karner sent an e-mail to then-SLO County Chief Administrator Officer, David Edge, where she wrote, "I hope the CSD gets fined out of existence..." [Note: In a March 25, 2005, Save the Dream newsletter, Nash-Karner wrote, "More delays mean the LOCSD may be fined out of existence."]

On the evening of Wednesday, September 28, 2005, Nash-Karner sent an e-mail to the executive director of the Central Coast Water Quality Control Board, Roger Briggs, where she wrote, "I'd like to talk to you about potential strategy from the property owners to stop a new board from stopping the project. I'll call you Thursday morning."

On Thursday, September 29, 2005 several supporters of the Solution Group/initial LOCSD Board/Save the Dream, sent e-mails to Briggs asking him to begin enforcement actions against the LOCSD, and individual property owners.

Almost immediately upon receiving those e-mails, Briggs drafted enforcement actions against the LOCSD and individual property owners. Those enforcement actions were quickly adopted by the CCWQCB, and remain in effect today.

Just over a year after she developed, and then implemented, a "strategy" to have the entire town of Los Osos "fined out of existence" in an effort to preserve the unpopular "Los Osos Wastewater Project as proposed by the (1999 - 2005) LOCSD," that she was instrumental in designing, Gibson selected Nash-Karner as his appointment to the SLO County Parks Commission.

When asked (twice) if the bylaws for a SLO County Parks Commissioner included a specific amount of meetings that a Commissioner could miss within a certain time-frame before losing their seat, Gibson did not answer the question.

According to the SLO County Parks Commission web site, "Parks Commissioners are an advisory group providing a vital link between SLO County Parks Staff, members of the County Board of Supervisors and the public. Each of the five members are individually appointed by the Board member representing their district. Commissioners provide perspective on behalf of their district. They advise Parks Staff and the Board on a range of park development issues, budget considerations, and community relations."

Along with causing her to miss her fourth and fifth Parks Commission meetings over the past year, Nash-Karner's current "extended vacation" also caused her to miss two significant SLO County Parks Department issues that were discussed at the Supervisors' June 23 meeting -- the issue of charging an entrance fee at MontaƱa de Oro State Park (just outside of Los Osos, in the 2nd District), and the retirement ceremony of long-time SLO County Parks Director, Pete Jenny.

According to documents, Jenny was hired as SLO County Parks Director in 1990.

Nash-Karner was first appointed to the SLO County Parks Commission in 1991.



  • Is it any wonder why incompetant people like Edge, Wilcox, Art Trinidad, Paavo....have a job at the County? It's not right for Supervisor Gibson to look the other way on the park's commission 'job' either. What about Term Limits? I bet someone else would like to get in and do 'real work' as park's commissioner. Or, I wonder if the park's commission gets more done if Pandora is absent? Is she out hiking or in Argintina? Maybe that's where Roger Briggs went when he was a.w.o.l.?

    By Blogger Commentary, at 5:58 PM, June 29, 2009  

  • Commentary wrote:

    "Is it any wonder why incompetant people like Edge, Wilcox, Art Trinidad, Paavo....have a job at the County?"

    How 'bout that quote where I show how Pandora Nash-Karner had/has a significant role in the hiring process of "top" county staff?

    That, frankly, makes me sick.

    And if Jensen thinks that I'm not going to pursue my public records request to find out who she helped hire, well, obviously, he needs to rethink that.

    By Blogger Ron, at 11:47 AM, June 30, 2009  

  • Good point. And I can't wait to see the records!

    By Blogger Commentary, at 1:32 PM, June 30, 2009  

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