Tuesday, July 28, 2009

An Exclusive SewerWatch Investigation: How Gary Karner and Pandora Nash-Karner (Fraudulently) Created Their Very Own Cash Machine: The LOCSD

Gary Karner is the current "Treasurer" of The Bay Foundation of Morro Bay.

Why is that interesting?

Because, according to The Bay Foundation of Morro Bay web site, Karner "was in private practice with The SWA Group, Planners and Landscape Architects, with an international practice and eight offices nationally, as a Managing Principal and Senior Project Manager of the firm. He specialized in project management and risk management with SWA for 27 years and is currently retained by SWA to consult on risk management."

And, here's why that's very interesting:

A November 24, 1997, document titled, "the Comprehensive Resource Management Plan ("CRMP"), that was authored by Gary Karner, and outlines an "alternative sewer project" that he and his wife, Pandora Nash-Karner, "coordinated" after they co-founded something called the "Solution Group" in 1997, reads, "The Solution Group is deeply indebted to the following firms and individuals who have contributed their services in developing this Plan at pro-bono or reduced rates... We recommend (these) firms be retained for professional design services when this Plan is accepted."

[Note the use of the word "when," in, "... when this Plan Is accepted." That's very important to this entire story.]

And, one of those firms "recommended" by Karner to be "retained for professional design services" "when" his (and his wife's) project was "accepted?"

You guessed it: SWA Group, of Sausal¡to, California -- the same SWA Group where Karner was a "Managing Principal and Senior Project Manager" "for 27 years and is currently retained by SWA."

However, and here's the huge problem for the Karners today, nowhere in his CRMP does Gary Karner mention his longtime, professional association with the SWA Group.

And it gets worse for the Karners... much... much... much worse.

Immediately upon releasing their CRMP in November, 1997, the Karners, with Pandora Nash-Karner acting as the "marketing director" for the Solution Group, embarked on a year-long effort to convince the voters of Los Osos that their "alternative sewer project" --a project that would utilize a location in the middle of town for its treatment facility -- was "better, cheaper, faster" than the plan developed by the County of San Luis Obispo at the time -- a County plan that had been "developed over the past ten-plus years," and had "undergone environmental review and approval," and was "well into the design process," and included a treatment facility site on the edge of town... downwind.

Throughout 1998, Nash-Karner's marketing scheme would involve saturating Los Osos with feel-good newsletters, posters, t-shirts, bumper stickers, and more, in an attempt to get those voters to form a "Community Services District" for Los Osos that November, because the Karners knew at the time, that one of the authorities that a CSD has over a "Community Services Area" -- which is what Los Osos's local government was prior to November 1998 -- is "wastewater."

So, if the Karners could just convince the town's voters, through an aggressive marketing campaign, that their project was, indeed, "better, cheaper, faster" than the County's project, those voters would form a CSD -- an idea that those same voters had already shot down twice in the 90s -- and the Karners would be free and clear to pursue their project, with Gary Karner's SWA Group "retained for professional design services."

However, there's another HUGE problem for the Karners today.

Almost immediately after their CRMP's release, and continuing throughout 1998, it was shown, repeatedly, by numerous State, County, and independent agencies, that the Karner's "better, cheaper, faster" sewer project was simply not going to work. Period.

For example, in a letter dated January 23, 1998 -- less than two months after Gary Karner first published his CRMP -- Paul Jagger, acting executive officer for the state's Regional Water Quality Control Board, notified the Karners that their plan to save money on the project by only sewering a small portion of the town, was, frankly, illegal.

In a bizarre document released by Gary Karner in 2005, he writes, "Mr. Paul Jagger acting for Roger Briggs of the RWQCB in a letter dated January 23, 1998 inferred that 100% of the septic tanks in Los Osos would have to be replaced... ."

Karner adds, "When the RWQCB demanded that the entire Prohibition Zone be collected and treated... the cost for land and construction became prohibitive. The cumulative system expansion and costs blew the [Solution Group] proposal out of the water (so to speak, no pun intended)."

That quote was in 2005. Jagger's letter was dated January 23, 1998 -- less than two months after Gary Karner first published his CRMP.

Gets worse for the Karners.

Instead of actually reading and comprehending Jagger's letter, and ending their futile pursuit of their "alternative" project in January 1998, the Karner's completely ignored Jagger's accurate letter, and began, that same month, lobbying SLO County Supervisors to fund a study that would compare their project's cost and feasibility, to that of the county's project.

After nearly two months of lobbying, Supervisors, in a non-unanimous vote, reluctantly agreed to fund the comparison, which ultimately resulted in a document, first exposed by this reporter, in June of 1998, known as the Questa Study.

The Questa Study would prove to be a complete embarrassment for the Karners.

For example, in that document, it reads, "Under the (Solution Group's) Plan, there will be a continued threat of nitrate and bacteriological contamination of groundwater in violation of Order 83-13 [the state law driving a sewer project in Los Osos] due to the retention of a large number of on-site wastewater disposal systems..."


"The County Plan complies with RWQCB Order 83-13 and meets the clear intent of the Order."


"... the (Solution Group's project is) an inappropriate choice for the Los Osos situation."


"One plan, developed by the County of San Luis Obispo over the past ten-plus years, has undergone environmental review and approval and is well into the design process."

and, in a supplement to the Questa Study;

"The supporting data for the (Solution Group's) facility was not found in any of the literature provided by the Solution Group or through any other sources that we researched independently. Had the Solution Group indicated that there were no supporting data at the outset, we would have immediately identified this as a possible 'fatal flaw.'"

However, instead of actually reading and comprehending the Questa Study, and ending their futile pursuit of their "alternative" project in June of 1998, the Karner's ignored the results of the Questa Study, and immediately began attacking, through Nash-Karner's aggressive marketing scheme, the credibility of the firm that conducted the study, Questa Engineering.

The Karners would continue that attack long after the Questa Study was shown to be 100-percent accurate.

For example, in his bizarre 2005 document, Karner also writes, "The CRMP... was formally critiqued in 1999 [sic] by an "objective" engineering firm, Questa Engineering, under contract with SLO County at the request of the California Coastal Commission."

Allow me to translate what Karner means with that wildly and deliberately inaccurate statement: By putting the word "objective" in quotes, what Gary Karner is attempting to say there is that Questa Engineering wasn't objective in their analysis, even though he and his wife helped hand-select the firm for the study that they, themselves, lobbied for.

According to a 1998 California Coastal Commission document, "To facilitate an independent and comprehensive comparison, staff of the Coastal Commission has worked with representatives from the County of San Luis Obispo, the Solution Group, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and other interested parties in a forum referred to as the “Los Osos Working Group” (Working Group). Beginning in January, 1998, the Working Group has met numerous times in an effort to define the specific parameters of the comparison, select a consultant with the ability to undertake the comparison, and discuss the conclusions reached by the selected consultant."

The document continues, "On February 26, 1998, the Working Group unanimously selected the proposal submitted by Questa Engineering Corporation (Questa). The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors agreed to fund this study in March 1998, and the County Engineering Department entered into a contract with Questa soon after. A draft report was published by Questa on May 21, 1998... "

Gets worse for the Karners.

The engineer in charge of the county's 1998 project, George Gibson, told this reporter in 2005, that his department, foreseeing the impending disaster that was developing with the Karner's relentless pursuit of their clearly illegal, dead-on-arrival, "better, cheaper, faster" project, took it upon themselves to develop a "long list" of problems that plagued the Karners' project.

"These were problems that any developer would have to deal with," Gibson said.

He added that then-County Supervisor, Bud Laurent, "hand-delivered" that list to the Karners in the summer of 1998.

When asked, by this reporter, "What did the Karners do with that list?"

Gibson said, "They just sat on it."

Gets worse for the Karners.

Also foreseeing the impending disaster that was developing with the Karners' relentless pursuit of their clearly illegal, never-going-to-work, "better, cheaper, faster" project, the staff of the California Coastal Commission, conducted its own comparison that pitted the Karners' project against the County's "ready to go" project.

In that October, 1998, document, first exposed by SewerWatch, Coastal Commission staff writes, "This document... supplements the Comparative Analysis previously completed by Questa Engineering... by compiling and analyzing new information developed through subsequent meetings of the Working Group."

The Coastal Commission's analysis of the Karners' project, makes the Questa Study look tame, in comparison.

In their brutal analysis, Commission staff writes, "The State and Regional Water Quality Control Boards have emphasized that approval of the County project, rather than further pursuit of the Solution Group alternative, is the preferable alternative in terms of water quality protection."

The document continues to hammer away at the Karners, "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."

Commission staff even reiterates the Questa Study's AND Jagger's earlier bottom-line takes, "The reduced service area proposed under the Solution Group alternative does not comply with RWQCB Order 83-13, and therefore can not be considered a viable alternative..."

Gets worse for the Karners.

That entire year -- 1998 -- SLO County officials were one permit away -- a development permit from the Coastal Commission -- from beginning construction on their "ready to go project," however the Karners were able to successfully delay the issuance of that permit -- meeting after Coastal Commission meeting -- by convincing the Commission that their "project" was worth further study.

In their October, 1998 report, Commission staff writes, "Background: The California Coastal Commission is in the process of considering an appeal of the Coastal Development Permit approved by San Luis Obispo County for a wastewater treatment project to serve the communit(y) of Los Osos. On June 9, 1997, the Coastal Commission determined that the appeal raised a substantial issue, and thereby took jurisdiction of the Coastal Development Permit for this project. De Novo hearings on the project were subsequently continued by the Commission in January and June of 1998.

In its consideration of the coastal development permit application for the wastewater treatment project proposed by San Luis Obispo County, the Commission has identified the need to compare this project proposal with an alternative project proposed by the locally based Solution Group."

However, through ALL of that, the Karners, led by Pandora Nash-Karner's marketing scheme, ignored Jagger's letter, ignored the Questa Study, ignored the "long list of problems" that Laurent "hand-delivered" to them, ignored the "State and Regional Water Quality Control Boards," and ignored the staff of the Coastal Commission (unfortunately for California taxpayers, the Coastal Commission itself wasn't as savvy as its staff), and, instead, continued to aggressively sell their dead-on-arrival project throughout 1998 to the electorate of Los Osos as "better, cheaper, faster," with a "maximum monthly payment of $38.75/month," and that their mid-town sewer plant -- that was to include "50-70 acres" of sewage ponds -- would be "drop dead gorgeous," and "odorless," in a "park-like setting."

Voters bit.

In November, 1998, 87-percent of the town's electorate established the Los Osos Community Services District, and, in an extremely important twist to this entire story, made Nash-Karner the #1 vote-getter in the initial LOCSD Board of Directors that same election.

In his bizarre 2005 document, Karner writes, "The CRMP was the basis for the platform that created the formation of the LOCSD."

Just two months after the official start of the LOCSD, the Board of Directors, with their new "wastewater" authority, voted to discontinue pursuit of the County's plan, and begin pursuit of the Karners' plan.

Remember this quote? "We recommend (these) firms be retained for professional design services when this Plan is accepted."

Gary Karner nailed it, in November 1997.

After voters formed the Los Osos CSD, the Board of Directors, with Nash-Karner as its vice-president, spent the next year -- all of 1999 -- designing the Karners' project, and used "transfers from its fire and water fund" to pay for it.

They finally released (way past due) the report for their "project" -- the Oswald Report -- first on January, 10. However, when that version was immediately called "incorrect and very misleading" by Roger Briggs, executive officer of the RWQCB, the District was forced to amend the report, and they were given just three weeks to do it. All of that was first exposed by this reporter in the New Times cover story, Problems With the Solution, published on June 7, 2000.

On January 31, 2000, the draft, and what would turn out to be the only, version of the Oswald Report was released.

In that document it reads, "Acknowledgments... "We at Oswald Engineering Associates, Inc. are indebted to many persons and agencies for their input and assistance with many parts of this Draft Project Report... We are especially indebted to Gary Karner and Pandora Nash-Karner..."

Those acknowledgements also read, "We especially wish to thank our landscape design colleagues at SWA Group, especially Joe Runco, James Lee, Lisa Crounse, and Nancy Conger for their help in integrating the... Wastewater Treatment and Water Purification Facility and drainage plan into the Resource Park, and for their many iterations in site planning and layout... "

In short, upon forming the LOCSD "based" on the Karner's fabricated "alternative" sewer project, Pandora Nash-Karner, as vice-president of the LOCSD, immediately "retained" the landscaping firm that her husband works for, SWA Group, for "professional design services."

Although the Oswald Report "acknowledges" the SWA Group, and "acknowledges" Gary Karner and Pandora Nash-Karner, what it fails to mention -- again -- is Gary Karner's nearly 30-year professional relationship with the SWA Group -- and peppered throughout the Oswald report are numerous architectural drawings involving the LOCSD's wastewater project, that read, "Source: SWA Group."

According to The Bay Foundation web site, Gary Karner "was a (landscape architecture) professor at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo for 13 years, and retired from that position in July, 1999."

Karner, according to his bio, retired from his job at Cal Poly at the end of the school year in 1999 -- the same year that the Los Osos CSD started writing checks to his SWA Group.

Gets worse for the Karners.

That document -- The Oswald Report -- was immediately, and I mean immediately met with scathing criticism by many of the exact agencies that hammered away at it before it became the "basis for the platform that created the formation of the LOCSD."

Just two weeks after it was published, in a February 15, 2000 letter, officials with the State Water Resources Control Board called the Oswald Report, "inadequate for several reasons."

In that letter, they state, "An adequate cost-effectiveness evaluation may lead to a different project alternative all together."

Remember this 2005 quote from Gary Karner regarding Jagger's January 1998 letter?: "When the RWQCB demanded that the entire Prohibition Zone be collected and treated... the cost for land and construction became prohibitive. The cumulative system expansion and costs blew the [Solution Group] proposal out of the water."

To be clear, the RWQCB "demanded that" "expansion" in January, 1998, less than two months after Karner first published his CRMP.

Almost immediately after the Oswald Report was published, the Los Osos CSD, with Gary Karner's wife, Pandora Nash-Karner, as vice-president, finally, in February 2000, pulled the plug on the Karners' "project," after it had accomplished its sole objective of forming the Los Osos Community Services District.

Jagger, the Questa Study, the SLO County Engineering Department, the "State and Regional Water Quality Control Boards," AND the staff of the California Coastal Commission were ALL proven to be 100-percent right in their analysis throughout 1998, and the District, after cutting checks to Gary Karner's SWA Group all though 1999 for "professional design services," was forced to turn "to a different project alternative all together."

According to a 2001 Los Osos CSD document, "To remedy this situation (of the Oswald Report being 'inadequate for several reasons'), the District hired (the engineering firm) Montgomery, Watson, Harza in March 2000 (to) conduct a comprehensive alternatives analysis."

[Note: In the "acknowledgements of the January, 2000 Oswald Report, it reads, "Wastewater Project Manager Mark Ysusi of Montgomery Watson provided strong leadership in coordinating the Wastewater Project."]

For years, the exact date that the Karners' project officially failed has been unknown. SewerWatch recently dug up that date -- March 2000... just one month after the Oswald Report was released.

Gets worse for the Karners.

Here is why that date is intensely important today.

In a May 12, 2007 story on SewerWatch, this reporter wrote:

"Although I wrote 95-percent of Problems with the Solution and the by-line for that story is mine, I did not conduct the interview with Nash-Karner found in that story. The editors at New Times added it after I submitted my original copy. I deliberately did not interview Nash-Karner for that story because, at the time, I was really starting to see the impacts she was having on Los Osos with her marketing, and I was also noticing... the less-than-truthful ways she goes about her marketing business"

[Note: I want to stop for a moment and focus on what an extraordinary statement that is. At the time I was researching that story, I already knew that Pandora Nash-Karner was going to lie to me about the state of her and her husband's "project," and so I made the decision to deliberately NOT interview her for that story. Think about that for a moment. It's extraordinary.]

Sensing that the Karner's fabricated "project," that was the "basis" for forming the Los Osos CSD, was on the verge of failing, this reporter began researching Problems With the Solution in May, 2000. That story was published on June 7, 2000.

The editors of New Times conducted their interview with Nash-Karner just before that story was published, and Nash-Karner told those editors, “We’re confident that this (the Karner's CRMP) is the most appropriate and most environmentally friendly plan. And we will be able to build it faster (than the county could have)."

When this reporter broke the Questa Study story in 1998, Norm Hantzsche, managing engineer of Questa Engineering, said, "They (the Solution Group) seem to be underestimating their costs.”

According to a February 15, 2000, SWRCB letter, "An adequate cost-effectiveness evaluation may lead to a different project alternative all together."

According to a 2001 LOCSD document, "To remedy this situation (of the Oswald Report being 'inadequate for several reasons'), the District hired (the engineering firm) Montgomery, Watson, Harza in March 2000 (to) conduct a comprehensive alternatives analysis."

“We’re confident that this (the Karner's CRMP) is the most appropriate and most environmentally friendly plan. And we will be able to build it faster (than the county could have)."
-- LOCSD vice-president, Pandora Nash-Karner, in Problems With the Solution, June 7, 2000.

Gets worse for the Karners.

After lying, predictably, to the editors of New Times about the fate of her and her husband's "project," the Los Osos Community Services District, that was formed solely due to the Karners' fabricated sewer "plan," and with Nash-Karner as its vice-president, continued to "retain" Gary Karner's SWA Group for "professional design services," even after the Karners' fake CRMP failed, as predicted.

For example, upon concluding their "comprehensive alternatives analysis" that began in "March 2000," Montgomery, Watson, Harza released another project report almost one year, to the date, after the failed Oswald Report was released.

The front cover of that report includes a drawing of a completely redesigned treatment facility, however, this time, the dramatically smaller facility is located in just a small corner of the exact same mid-town location where the Karners proposed their fabricated CRMP.

In a separate version of that exact site plan drawing, obtained exclusively by this reporter, it reads, "SWA Group, November 2000."

Furthermore, according to the "acknowledgements" found in the 2001 MWH report for the LOCSD's "different project alternative all together," it reads, "The development of this report would not have been possible without the local knowledge and expertise provided by the District's wastewater committee. In particular, Frank Freiler, Gary Karner, Bob Semenson, Jerry Gregory, Geof Gurley, and Richard LeGros were extremely helpful."

[Note: According to a 1998 newsletter produced by Pandora Nash-Karner, Frank Freiler, Bob Semenson, Geof Gurley and Jerry Gregory were members in the Karners' Solution Group. Richard LeGros would go on to become, with the help of Nash-Karner's marketing, an LOCSD Director in 2002, where he joined with like-minded directors Stan Gustafson and Gordon Hensley, that were elected in 1998, along with Nash-Karner.

According to Nash-Karner's 1998 newsletter, Gustafson and Hensley were also members of the Karners' Solution Group. LeGros, Hensley, and Gustafson would ultimately be removed from office in 2005, through a voter recall.]

Again, MWH's 2001 report fails to mention Gary Karner's longtime, professional relationship with the SWA Group.

Gets worse for the Karners.

Nash-Karner "served" just one, two-year term as LOCSD vice-president, where she repeatedly "retained" her husband's SWA Group for "professional design services."

According to a District spokesperson, "Pandora Nash-Karner had a 2-year term from December 1998 to December 2000. She did not run for re-election. When the Board was formed, the Directors drew straws at their first Board meeting to determine who would get the 4-year terms and 2-year terms, since terms needed to be staggered. Starting with election of 2000, all Directors were elected to serve 4-year terms."

After using her and her husband's fake "sewer project" as a tool to form the Los Osos CSD in 1998 so she, as a CSD Director, could begin funnelling checks to Gary Karner's landscaping firm for two years, Nash-Karner, after just her one, brief term, decided it was her turn to start withdrawing funds from her and her husband's cash machine -- the Los Osos Community Services District.

In 2005, during a broadcast of the local talk radio show, The Dave Congalton Show, that this reporter was listening to, Gary Karner phoned in, and, in an odd attempt to defend the actions of his wife, admitted, on the air, that Nash-Karner, almost immediately upon leaving the LOCSD Board of Directors in late 2000, placed a bid with the District, that she and her husband were solely responsible for creating, for "$700,000" for "public relations services."

"She did not get that contract," Karner said.

Incidentally, Nash-Karner herself, in the run-up to the 1998 LOCSD election, appeared on Congalton's show several times to promote her and her husband's fabricated, "highly misleading," fake CRMP project.

On her marketing business web site, she refers to the media as "tools."

When asked, by this reporter in 2007, how he felt about Nash-Karner using him as a "tool," Congalton replied, "I think she's a wonderful person."

That "public relations" contract eventually went to someone named Maria Singleton, for over $500,000.

According to a 2003 Tribune editorial (no longer archived on the web), "What kind of bang for its buck has the community been getting from the district's public relations firm (Singleton & Associates)? Spiffy quarterly publications called Bear Pride on heavy stock paper filled with graphics and color."

And, according to a Tribune report at the time, "the contract also calls for (Singleton's) writers and other assistants to be paid at separate rates ranging from $30 an hour to $80 an hour."

However, recent evidence uncovered by SewerWatch shows that Singleton may not have been responsible for the production of the Bear Pride newsletters, after all.

In the "portfolio" section of Nash-Karner's marketing business web site, under the link "newsletters," there is a copy of a "Bear Pride" newsletter, with the words "Los Osos Community Services District" next to it.

Clearly legible in the graphic is the headline, "People are asking questions about the wastewater project. Why has it changed? Where will it be, and why? How can we pay for it?"

Below the headline, the text in the graphic is eligible.

SewerWatch recently placed a public records request with the Los Osos CSD requesting a copy of that newsletter.

When asked, by SewerWatch, in a recent e-mail, if she was responsible for the text in that newsletter, Nash-Karner responded that she was responsible for the LOCSD's "identity package" (logos, stationary, business cards, posters)," and that she created the name "Bear Pride" and designed and produced the newsletters, "prior to their hiring Maria's firm."

However, this reporter also has a copy of a Bear Pride newsletter dated "Summer 2004," and it is the exact same look, layout and design as the one posted in Nash-Karner's portfolio.

She added, "I was never paid by the LOCSD. I believed the District needed to have a strong outreach program to the community and I volunteered to do a great deal of work for the District."

This reporter has attempted several times to locate Maria Singleton to ask her if Nash-Karner was ever one of her "other assistants," at "up to $80/hour." However, after collecting over a half million dollars from the Los Osos CSD for apparently doing nothing, while Nash-Karner did all of the "public relations" work "pro bono," that Singleton was contracted to do, Singleton is now impossible to find.

Additionally, former New Times reporter, Dan Blackburn, told SewerWatch last year, that he went to the LOCSD offices at the time of the contract to interview Singleton. Blackburn said that when he arrived at the District's offices, "Pandora was there with Maria Singleton. She (Nash-Karner) had tea and cookies waiting for me."

When told, by this reporter, just last year, that Singleton's contract included language that allowed her to hire "other assistants" at "up to $80/hour," Blackburn was surprised to hear that information, and upon hearing that news, immediately exclaimed, "There was a back door!"

Along with creating an "identity package" for the Los Osos CSD -- an "identity package" that included logos, stationary, business cards, posters, newsletters, and more -- Nash-Karner, after her one, two-year term as Los Osos CSD vice-president, also sat in on numerous official meetings that involved contractors working on the District's "different (sewer) project alternative all together" -- post-Oswald Report.

In a recent phone interview with local architect, Kyle Harris, who also created several architectural drawings for the District's second attempt at a sewer project while with the San Luis Obispo-based firm, RRM Design, said, "I remember that Pandora Nash-Karner was involved in quite a few meetings around 2003 or 2004, that I had with the District."

Harris added, "She was hired by the LOCSD Board as a PR consultant."

When told that Nash-Karner said in a recent e-mail, that she "was never paid" by the District, Harris said, "Well, I don't know if they actually hired her."

On her marketing business web site, not only does she list the Los Osos CSD as a "pro bono" client, but she also lists the Solution Group, that she and her husband "coordinated" from 1997 - 1998, as a "pro bono" client.

However, in a 1998 Solution Group newsletter that was widely distributed throughout Los Osos, and promises homeowners a "maximum" sewer payment of "$38.75/month," Nash-Karner includes a "form" that allows readers to enclose "a contribution to help offset some of the costs spent by the Solution Group while creating a better solution to our problems (Thank you! Thank you!)," and also reads, "Check enclosed."

Furthermore, Nash-Karner's "pro bono" work for the Solution Group would eventually lead to her husband's SWA Group being "retained" for "professional design services."

Also on her marketing business web site, Nash-Karner writes, "A newsletter isn’t just about 'news.' To be effective, it also needs to contain something of such benefit that your customers feel they are getting something they really want and need. We are experts in designing newsletters that get read and saved, rather than skimmed and trashed."

Gets worse for the Karners.

Although Nash-Karner controlled the sewer message, almost entirely, through her Bear Pride newsletters that were distributed to all "Residents and Property owners of Los Osos, CA," at Los Osos taxpayer's expense, of course, and also through all of her "tools" in the local media, there was one exception to her total control of that message -- this reporter.

In September, 2004, this reporter authored another New Times cover story, Three Blocks Upwind of Downtown, that first exposed how the only way Nash-Karner was able to keep her second "different project alternative all together" at the same location where she and her husband had promised voters a "better, cheaper, faster" project at "$38.75/month," was by fabricating a "strongly held community value," that any sewer plant in Los Osos must also double as a "centrally located recreational asset," and that the only "centrally located" site in Los Osos that could accommodate a sewer plant was her and her husband's CRMP's "mid-town" site -- the same project that the SWA Group -- her husband's landscaping firm -- designed... twice.

Just two months after Three Blocks was published, and six years after Pandora Nash-Karner and Gary Karner formed the Los Osos Community Services District for no apparent reason other than to get paid, two members of the community that had no ties to the Karners or their Solution Group, Lisa Schicker and Julie Tacker, were elected to the LOCSD Board of Directors. It was the first time that the CSD Board of Directors contained members that had no affiliation whatsoever with the Solution Group, or the Karners.

Shortly after that election, an effort was also launched by the community to recall former Solution Group members, Gordon Hensley and Stan Gustafson, and, former wastewater committee member -- that was appointed by Nash-Karner, and "served" with Gary Karner -- Richard LeGros, from the District's Board of Directors.

In an effort to prevent that recall from being successful, Nash-Karner, again, coordinated another group. This one she called, "Save the Dream."

And, again, Nash-Karner, as "Chair" of the "Save the Dream Coalition," produced several highly misleading newsletters that, of course, were widely distributed throughout Los Osos.

Her considerable effort failed, and the recall was successful, but that didn't prevent her from getting paid.

According to sources, Nash-Karner's "Save the Dream Coalition" was able to raise over $100,000 in campaign contributions.

Gets worse for the Karners.

A document obtained exclusively by SewerWatch shows that over $20,000 was donated to Nash-Karner's "coalition" in the days immediately after the recall election, and it was donated largely by two of the contractors that were hired by the Karners' LOCSD to design and build (or, at least feign to design and build) their sewer projects.

On October 3, 2005, Barnard Construction donated $10,000 to Nash-Karner's Save the Dream Coalition, and on September 28, 2005, just one day after the recall election, the engineering firm that was both the "project manager" on the Karners' fabricated CRMP, AND the engineering firm responsible for their second, "different project alternative all together," Montgomery, Watson, Harza, donated another $10,000.

In both failed projects, the "professional services" of MWH, and the SWA Group -- the landscaping firm that Gary Karner had professionally consulted with for decades -- were "retained."

The Save the Dream Coalition "campaign statement" also shows that payments were made to "Pandora Nash-Karner," and to "Pandora & Co" for "campaign literature and mailings."

The statement covers from 9/11/2005 to 12/31/2005, yet it was filed with the SLO County Clerk-Recorder's office on March 24, 2006... nearly seven years to the day that Nash-Karner, as newly elected LOCSD vice-president, voted to discontinue pursuit of the county's "ready to go" project, and begin pursuit of her and her husband's "incorrect and very misleading," illegal-from-day-one, "Comprehensive Resource Management Plan."

Just this month, July, 2009, SewerWatch sent several e-mails to SWA Group's "Principal," Joe Runco, asking if his firm ever paid Gary Karner for "design services" associated with the Los Osos wastewater project, and, if so, how much.

Runco has not replied.

In a 2004 SWA Group document involving a park project with the city of Murrieta, Gary Karner's name is listed as a "Consulting Principal."

According to that document, "Other principals, if used on this project, have rates ranging from $135.00 to $195.00 an hour."

Gets worse for the Karners.

On July 24, SewerWatch filed a public records request with the Los Osos Community Services District, asking for, among other things, how much, in total, the SWA Group was paid by the District over the years, and if Nash-Karner has placed other bids to the CSD -- other than her $700,000 bid -- and, if so, for what, and how much?"

The District, that the Karners are solely responsible for forming, replied on July 27, saying, "The District does not possess documents responsive to your request."

Gets worse for the Karners.

As recently exposed by SewerWatch, Pandora Nash-Karner -- a 2nd District Parks Commissioner since 1991 -- has missed almost half of the SLO County Parks Commission meetings over the last year, including back-to-back meetings in May and June of this year due to an "extended vacation" in the "South Pacific," according to a county official.

According to that same official, she returned from her "extended vacation" in time to attend the July 23 Parks Commission meeting.

However, in a July 24 e-mail to SewerWatch, just days after this reporter's last e-mail to SWA Group's, Joe Runco, asking him if Gary Karner was ever paid for the SWA Group's extensive work on the Los Osos wastewater project, Nash-Karner wrote, "We will be out of the country from tomorrow until late August."


[Please support independent journalism. SewerWatch accepts donations, which means I do not work "pro bono." Donation information on the right of the blog. (Thank you! Thank you!)]


  • So, you do not like Panora or Gary. Big deal.

    That you do not like the Karners is very apparent; yet nothing you acccuse the Karners of is illegal or even amoral.

    By Blogger Gadfly, at 11:53 AM, July 28, 2009  

  • I hope I am not doing business with you now, nor ever will be Gadfly.
    Nothing amoral?
    Sincerely, M

    By Blogger M, at 6:06 PM, July 28, 2009  

  • Gadnora,
    I know you need to sling your $%#!...however you are very premature in your "assumptions" regarding the Karners.

    By Blogger Watershed Mark, at 8:52 AM, July 29, 2009  

  • Quick note...

    When I first published this story yesterday... I only proofread it once because I was kinda in a hurry to get to the Fair for some sight-seeing, and the Kiss concert, so I missed a few typos that I cleaned up today. Hopefully, I got most of them.

    By the way Kiss sucked, and if you're keeping score, it's: Girls: 2 / Boys: 0

    Heart and Carrie Underwood were both excellent, and Journey and Kiss both sucked.

    And, Gadflea? As I always say, I absolutely LOVE the Karners, because they have given me an amazing story.

    In fact, I would buy them a beer... if they ever come back.

    However, since they have all of your money, they're the ones that should be picking up the check.

    By Blogger Ron, at 11:16 AM, July 29, 2009  

  • @ Gadfly:

    Pandora Nash-Karner did a lot of things that were quite illegal. Let's assume that everything Ron talked about was purely kosher, it would be highly unethical to pimp your "professional services" to the very same District that you formed. No third-party competition, just, "Sell! Sell! Sell!"

    Excellent work, Ron.

    By Blogger Aaron, at 9:04 PM, July 29, 2009  

  • Ron,
    Excellent investigative reporting. It is frustrating to see the deceit and corruption with nothing being done because the folks that SHOULD do something about it are, most likely, part of the process of deceit and corruption. Keep up the fine work. Maybe someday, someone will do something....a contribution is forthcoming.

    gadfly....do you understand "amoral" or "illegal" or what?

    By Blogger franc4, at 7:18 PM, August 01, 2009  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger No, at 7:11 AM, August 17, 2009  

  • No wrote:

    "Ron, you need a fuckin hobby pal! Geeeze...what's with you? Posting long ass diatribes on calcoast and here."

    You mean, the two "long ass diatribes on calcoast" that I posted a few weeks back at this link, where I tightly show, using excellent quotes straight from the Robertson report, how David Edge was set-up to make it LOOK like he was a sexual harasser, so Wilcox could "buy some time?" "Diatribes" that "Cindy" called "good stuff?"

    Those "long ass diatribes?"

    Quick question, No.

    What do you think of Gary Karner never mentioning his longtime, professional relationship with the SWA Group, and how the LOCSD "retained" the SWA Group's "professional services" immediately after the Karners formed it, as I report on SewerWatch?

    Or, what's your take on how two of the sewer contractors gave Nash-Karner's "Save the Dream" $20,000 immediately AFTER the recall election?

    Do you have comments on any of that?

    Or, do you just not like me, because I tap on a keyboard?

    If so, welcome to the club.

    By Blogger Ron, at 9:30 AM, August 18, 2009  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Gadfly, at 12:14 PM, August 19, 2009  


    "Get a f-ing life, Ron" is not a "Comment."

    If you have something to add that involves the story at hand -- in this case, how the Karners fabricated a sewer project in 1997-98, and then used it to make a bunch of cash off of Los Osos taxpayers, and others for the next ten years-and-counting -- then feel free to post away.

    And, if you have some specific critique of my reporting, by all means, you can leave that. That's fine with me. (Of course, you losers can't do that, because my reporting is so damn tight.)

    But if you're just going to pop in here to anonymously insult me, like a creepy, little 8-year-old, what you do is make my blog worse. Your "comments" are horrible... they're nothing... worse than nothing.

    So, those... whatever they are... will be removed, like I just did.

    And, yes, I do see the irony in creepy, anonymous losers, that lurk around my blog, telling ME to "get a life."

    By Blogger Ron, at 2:19 PM, August 19, 2009  

  • To date you have not shown one shread of evidence that that shows that after the Karners worked on the Solution Group Plan that they '...then used it to make a bunch of cash off of Los Osos taxpayers, and others for the next ten years-and-counting....'

    Show us REAL, TANGABLE EVIDENCE such as an invoice, a receipt, a payment slip, an actual adopted contract, anything. You claim that they continue to make money off the SG Plan. give use the evidence!

    To make such an aggregious claim without evidence is nothing more than speculation and spin.

    So prove me wrong. Show the evidence....and no, self -refering to your own stories is not evidence.

    By Blogger Gadfly, at 5:40 PM, August 19, 2009  

  • See, Gadflea?

    Isn't that much better?

    Now, if I could just teach you how to read.

    G. Flea wrote:

    "Show us REAL, TANGABLE EVIDENCE such as an invoice, a receipt, a payment slip, an actual adopted contract, anything. You claim that they continue to make money off the SG Plan. give use the evidence!"

    I did. With this document, that I link to in my main story.

    Pandora paid herself nearly $5,000, just in that statement alone. Boom! And, had she and her husband NOT formed the LOCSD in 1998 for no reason whatsoever (other than to get paid), she wouldn't have been able to pay herself that cash.

    And, by the way, that's classic Nash-Karner sneakiness -- start a "coalition," put out a bunch of marketing material hyping that "coalition" so it'll receive donations, and then pay yourself, backdoor style.

    Now, I have another question G. Flea.

    Why are you such an apologist for the Karners? Are you a friend? Heck, are you one of them?

    Because, considering they formed the LOCSD for no reason whatsoever (other than to get paid), and, assuming that you live in Los Osos, that cost you a fortune.

    You should be mad, along with the other tiny handful of Nash-Karner/Karner apologists (all anonymous, of course), yet, you support them every step of the way.

    That makes no sense whatsoever.

    Think about it.

    By Blogger Ron, at 10:09 AM, August 20, 2009  

  • You allege that the Karner’s are taking money from the SLO / LO taxpayers.

    You stated that you have evidence that shows taxpayer moneys being paid directly to the
    Karners. I asked to see evidence, which you provided.

    The evidence provided is the Form Cal 460 that Save the Dream filed with the State; which shows all monetary donations to and expenses from the Save the Dream Campaign.

    In the 460, there are three payments to Pandora & Company, listed as $2,397.75 (LIT), $185.67(FND) and $3869.04 (LIT).

    You state that this is evidence that Pandora is being paid taxpayer’s funds.

    I do not see how your evidence support your allegations.

    First, Save the Dream was a private organization that did not received one cent of taxpayer funds. Form 460 verifies this.
    ALL the funds were donated by private citizens and organization, which is perfectly legal and a right vested under our Constitution.

    Second, Save the Dream filed all forms as required by law, listing the financials of the organization.
    Form 460 clearly shows that the money paid to Pandora and Company was REIMBURSEMENT for money that Pandora & Company had SPENT to pay for fundraising events (FND) and for the printing and mailing of campaign literature (LIT).


    Pandora had personally SPENT +$5,000 funding Save the Dream outreach efforts; hence Save the Dream REIMBURSED her for her costs. SHE DID NOT EARN ONE DIME for any services she provided to Save the Dream she provided Pro Bono.

    IF Pandora had indeed received PAYMENT for professional services, it would show up on form 460 as code CNS; which is a PAYMENT for professional/consulting services rendered to STD. This is not the case.

    Again, I ask where is your evidence that shows that Pandora or Gary have defrauded the taxpayers and received PUBLIC / TAXPAYER FUNDS?


    Lastly, the Karners did not ‘form the LOCSD’…..85% of the voters in 1998 did.
    Pandora may have supported the formation, but so did over 8000 other folks. In hindsight the Karner’s, as one of MANY authors of the Solution Group Plan, were mistaken in their confidence in the ‘plan’. The Karner’s, along with many other folks, did not believe the many indicators that their plan was unworkable. Being mistaken is not a crime, Ron; nor is it a crime to continue to espouse an unworkable plan. You can call it silly, stupid, dishonest, flim-flammery, whatever; but a crime, no.

    By Blogger Gadfly, at 12:26 PM, August 20, 2009  

Post a Comment

<< Home