Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Great San Los Osobispo Botanical Sewer Garden Project

TO: Roman Porter, Executive Director, California Fair Political Practices Commission
DATE: 1/20/10

Dear Fair Political Practices Commission,

I'm filing this complaint with you, because I think I may have come across a violation of this:

[Govt Code 87100 et seq]: "No public official at any level of state or local government shall make, participate in making or in any way attempt to use his official position to influence a governmental decision in which he knows or has reason to know he has a financial interest."

... in San Luis Obispo County government.

It involves the 2nd District Parks Commissioner, Pandora Nash-Karner.

Nash-Karner is also on the Board of Directors for another local organization, The San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden.

Here's the link:

That facility is currently planning a "$20 million" expansion, according to their web site:

I recently called the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden, and spoke with their executive director, Liz Scott-Graham.

I asked her if her organization had received any proposals from firms interested in building the expansion.

She said, "Yes. One."

I asked her if the firm that gave that proposal was the SWA Group.

She said, "Yes."

The reason I already knew to ask if it was the SWA Group that gave that proposal, is because I wrote a story a few months back, at this link:

... where I showed how, starting in 1998, Nash-Karner, along with her husband, Gary Karner, created (from their home) a public works project -- a sewer project -- and then heavily marketed that made-up project to the voters of Los Osos throughout 1998.

It worked.

The Karners were able to use their fabricated "better, cheaper, faster" sewer project as the "basis" to form the Los Osos Community Services District. In that same election, November 1998, Nash-Karner, a marketing professional, was also elected to the District's initial Board of Directors.

Incidentally, the Karners’ "better, cheaper, faster" sewer project never worked, of course, as predicted by numerous government agencies, long before the November 1998 election.

In a 1997 document, at this link:

... created by the Karners, that outlines their “project,” it reads:

"(We are) 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 was in 1997, a full year before the 1998 election.

And, one of the firms "recommended" by the Karners to be "retained for professional design services" "when" their project was "accepted?"

"SWA Group, of Sausalito, California"

According to documents, Gary Karner was a "Managing Principal and Senior Project Manager" for the SWA Group, "for 27 years and is currently retained by SWA."

In the same document where Karner writes:

"We recommend (these) firms be retained for professional design services when this Plan is accepted... SWA Group, of Sausal¡to, California"

... he never once discloses his financial interest in the SWA Group.

Shortly after the formation of the LOCSD, with Pandora Nash-Karner as its vice-president, official District documents associated with the sewer project read, "SWA Group."

That exact same scenario is playing out today, at the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden, and that is precisely why I already knew to ask Scott-Graham if their "one" proposal came from Karner's SWA Group.

Yes, it did. (Think about that for a moment... I already knew who gave the proposal before she even told me.)

Nash-Karner has infiltrated (strangely, a near-perfect use of that word) another local agency that's proposing a multi-million dollar project, and the one (so, far as I know) proposal to build the project came from Karner's SWA Group, with his wife (and SLO County Parks Commissioner), Pandora Nash-Karner, on that agency's Board of Directors, yet, again, the Karners' financial interest in the SWA Group, was, apparently, never revealed.

I asked Scott-Graham if she thought that there might be a conflict of interest in having Gary Karner's firm submit a proposal for a $20 million expansion, while his wife was on the BOD.

She said, "No."

According to the Minutes of 2009 SLO County Parks Commission meeting, at this link:

"Commissioner Nash-Karner... said that on September 27, 2009 the SLO Botanical Garden celebration would be at El Chorro Park."


"Commissioner Nash-Karner... said there will be two weeks of talks on the Botanical Garden development from May 1-15;"


"Commissioner Mathews... mentioned the SLO Botanic Garden is attempting to obtain a grant..."

I'm requesting that the Fair Political Practices Commission please determine if there's a violation of Govt Code 87100 by investigating San Luis Obispo County 2nd District Parks Commissioner, Pandora Nash-Karner, and her ties with the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden, and her husband's SWA Group.

Also, as long as we're on this subject, in those same SLO County Parks Commission meeting Minutes, it reads:

"Commissioner Nash-Karner said a meeting of stakeholders will take place soon to discuss putting together a survey to determine the need for an aquatic center on the north coast. Also stated that the Celebrate Los Osos group is now a 501 (c) 3 and looks forward to working with County Parks on various projects."


"Commissioner Nash-Karner reported that there are now two non-profit groups working on pool development in the Los Osos/Morro Bay communities; "

According to sources, Nash-Karner founded both "Celebrate Los Osos" AND "The Los Osos Pool Association," and, of course, that fact is not disclosed in the meeting Minutes.

While you are investigating her San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden/2nd District Parks Commissioner/SWA Group ties, please also investigate her 2nd District Parks Commissioner/Celebrate Los Osos/Los Osos Pool Association ties.

Thank you for your time.



  • (my electricity did go out when I hit Publish the post on Wed. and is just now back on...hope this goes better........)

    This is a little complicated. I looked at the Botanical website and did a search of SWA and Gary Karner.

    Is the Botanical group a Non-profit group? Or is it a subcommittee of the Parks Department? Why does the County lease 150 acres to a private group? For money or is it a free lease? And this group gets free money (grants) from the County to operate? So, the County said, form a group and we'll give them operating money?

    If it's a Non-profit, one issue to begin with is, can a member of a County commission (B.of Sup. appointed) oversee projects, members, money requests from another group that they are a director of?

    It'd be like, ......I move for us botanical group to do a big project, we need approval from the Parks commission in order to get approval from the B.of Supes in order to get their grant money. Ok, I approve and now here at the Commission meeting, well look at this, the Botanical group wants to do a big project, ok to that. "That was easy."

    The next issue would be hiring a private company that your spouse is part owners in. I looked at the SWA website and didn't see Gary Karner listed. I searched and found a document from 2004 that showed his name on SWA stationary. He may have retired from this group and he may have ownership in the company because the company is set up for employee ownership according to their website.

    The next issue is $20 MILLION DOLLARS!!!!!!!????? For an existing park? Isn't that a bit outrageous? Why don't they hire Cal Poly landscape students and laborers or something? What does $20 million buy? Maybe I read it wrong.

    By Blogger Commentary, at 3:03 PM, January 22, 2010  

  • C. wrote:

    "The next issue would be hiring a private company that your spouse is part owners in. I looked at the SWA website and didn't see Gary Karner listed. I searched and found a document from 2004 that showed his name on SWA stationary."

    Wanna see something fishy(er) with that? (Imagine that: The Karners, and something fishy.)

    I got this bio info:

    "(Gary Karner) was a Managing Principal and Senior Project Manager for 27 years (with SWA Group), and is currently retained by SWA."

    .. just a few months back, by copying-and-pasting it from The Bay Foundation's web site, where Gary Karner is (was?) the "Treasurer."

    Now, look what happens when you (try to) go to The Bay Foundation's web site:

    Good thing I copied-and-pasted that bio info when I did.

    By Blogger Ron, at 1:30 PM, January 26, 2010  

  • I tried the link, it didn't work so I tried typing the url and that also didn't work. So, are they disappearing the evidence?

    I thought the webpage for Mr. Karner was odd in that there was no information on his personal webpage (last week).

    This actually seems like a very big story; so outrageous, the $20 million and the husband's out of town expensive international landscaping group as the only game 'in town'. It seems that she is an advocate for this group, SWA. Why choose them at all? Ok, let's assume that they are the best and I guess SLO wants the best, most expensive group to develop 150 acres of LEASED ground?

    No more, faster, better, cheaper. Now,it's high end, top dollar single bidder. Or, more probably,'s my husband's company, that's why. There just cannot be any other reason but I am all ears.

    Think of $20 million going out of the county. Why should it cost $20 mill to begin with?????????

    I still don't understand the funding for the botanical group. How they get taxpayer money to develop land leased from the taxpayer? But the taxpayer owns the land?

    By Blogger Commentary, at 8:27 PM, January 26, 2010  

  • I found a cached Bay Foundation site and the bio. is there. And maybe that group no longer exists? I found the Estuary website does list Gary Karner but not as tresurer at this time.

    I tried to paste the link here but it didn't paste in and I've left that page. (Morro Bay National Estuary........)

    By Blogger Commentary, at 9:37 PM, January 26, 2010  

  • opps, typo, treasurer

    By Blogger Commentary, at 9:41 PM, January 26, 2010  

  • C. wrote:

    "This actually seems like a very big story"

    Yep. On many, many levels.

    My personal favorite level?

    What this story also shows, is that the past 12-years-and-counting of sewer delays (since the Karners' made-up project stopped the County's viable plan in 1998) are due, solely, to the Karners wanting to make money (and my guess is, a helluva lot of it.)

    Like I wrote:

    "Note the use of the word "when," in, "... when this Plan Is accepted." That was in 1997, a full year before the 1998 election."

    To put it bluntly, the Karners are the Bernie Madoffs of Los Osos... and now, SLO County.

    They don't care about you. They just want to make money... off of you.

    Trust me, C., it's just a matter of time before this story breaks, and you'll be able to say that you had a front row seat.

    With a bit of luck, the FPPC will expedite the story's breaking... that is, unless Pandora's ALSO on a first-name-basis with everyone at the FPPC, like she is with EVERY other government agency involved with her scams.

    By Blogger Ron, at 9:28 AM, January 27, 2010  

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