November 14, 2018
OPINION by DANIEL BLACKBURN
Six years in the past immediately, an article was revealed on CalCoastNews that may endlessly reshape the lives of its authors and their households — and finally these of the article’s topics.
The article mentioned questionable practices by the county’s rubbish company, the Built-in Waste Administration Authority (IWMA), its 20-year supervisor William Worrell, and a popular contractor, Charles Okay. Tenborg. The article bore the bylines of Karen Velie and me.
A few weeks later, Worrell and Tenborg despatched a requirement for retraction. It will be declined. Then Tenborg filed the lawsuit; Worrell didn’t be a part of. Now it’s obvious why.
On the time, we have been puzzled by Tenborg’s selection of legal professionals in submitting the lawsuit, Kerr & Wagstaffe , a San Francisco regulation agency with a perceived fame for representing First Modification points.
It was solely a lot later that it was discovered that Kerr & Wagstaffe has an ongoing 30-year-plus skilled affiliation with native attorneys Adamski Moreski Madden Cumberland & Inexperienced. Raymond Biering is a associate. He’s additionally been counsel to the IWMA for the previous 20 years, the man whose authorized opinions to Worrell and the IWMA board have led to the company’s present disarray and ongoing felony investigation.
“Please be aware that my law firm has a close professional relationship with Mr. Tenborg’s counsel, Jim Wagstaffe,” Biering wrote in an e mail following the trial, during which he stated he was declining to present public info relating to points at trial due to his relationship with Tenborg.
This relationship was by no means divulged by Wagstaffe. As an alternative, Wagstaffe advised lawyer James Duenow, a outstanding patriarch within the San Luis Obispo County authorized group, that the companies weren’t affiliated. It’s a battle for an lawyer for a authorities company to function counsel for consultants to the company.
There’s one place to search for general culpability within the authorized morass the IWMA at present finds itself in, and that’s at Biering.
However, the IWMA board at the moment will think about assigning a contract for Adamski Moreski Madden Cumberland & Inexperienced to function the company’s counsel, merely demonstrating that some classes are damned onerous for some individuals to study.
Wagstaffe, a dapper bantam rooster, was joined in Tenborg’s illustration by associate Ivo Labar, a hulking presence whose main activity appeared to be intimidation.
One who wasn’t intimidated was Duenow. He approached Wagstaffe throughout a break within the trial, asking if Wagstaffe knew he was “representing a polluter.”
The remark was overheard by New Occasions reporter Chris McGuinness, who famous it in a quick article. McGuinness sat via the entire trial, to his credit score, however because it turned out he didn’t appear to take up a lot of it. McGuinness was given authorities codes, guidelines, and legal guidelines overlaying points disputed throughout trial, however nothing got here of that. The New Occasions was too busy trying to discredit a competitor. These efforts proceed to this very day.
It was an armchair turkey shoot for native media to decide the validity of the litigated report. They selected as an alternative to dance upon what they prematurely thought can be our graves and that of CalCoastNews.
Introduction of a lot of our proof was subsequently denied by Decide Barry LaBarbara on a collection of technicalities. In the long run, LaBarbara rejected 11 of 13 witnesses we deliberate to current.
We have been the proverbial lambs led to slaughter. Whereas our legal professionals diddled, Wagstaffe and Labar trotted out a dog-and-pony present worthy of Perry Mason. The jury discovered, 11-1, that we had embarrassed and harm Tenborg’s emotions in defaming him, and awarded him $1.1 million. This, regardless of testimony that made clear that neither Velie nor I had two nickels to rub collectively.
The lone juror siding with us approached us instantly following the decision, launched himself, and stated he was a current naturalized citizen of america of America. He stated none of his fellow jurors “understood the First Amendment.”
The New York Occasions, Los Angeles Occasions and different main publications reported on the trial end result, receiving the tip compliments of county supervisor Adam Hill and one among his running a blog buddies.
Hill has boasted typically and publicly that he’s the juice behind the lawsuit; he was incoming president of the IWMA board when the lawsuit was filed.
Hill lengthy has nurtured a grudge towards CalCoastNews, the one information entity to report on his unethical conduct and exploitation of his public workplace. A lengthy collection of articles in 2010-11 targeted on the actions of Dee Torres, who ran the homeless division of Group Motion Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO).
She was positioned on depart and left the company following CalCoastNews studies of her abuse of present playing cards meant for the homeless at Christmas.
We didn’t comprehend it on the time, however Torres and Hill have been in a relationship. They’ve since married. And Hill went off.
Hill and his sycophant blogger fed a gentle stream of of lies all through the area people with apparent intent to poison the jury pool. They insulted Velie’s grandchildren and even helped facilitate the youngsters’ kidnapping by the county’s Baby Protecting Providers. They usually unleashed an unholy band of forked-tongue on-line assailants whose sole goal was trashing Velie.
There was a really particular purpose issues went awry at our trial. It’s referred to as perjury.
For instance, two weeks earlier than the trial’s begin, Tenborg admitted guilt in 17 separate incidences of fraudulent bill submittals to the California Division of Poisonous Substances Management (DTSC) and agreed to repay the state the complete sum of money he had unlawfully obtained. Every of these deceitful invoices was for greater than $2,000.
Nevertheless, Tenborg testified earlier than and through trial that he had all the time complied with all environmental laws and that he had by no means been the topic of any enforcement motion by the DTSC, a false declare that a number of authorities officers additionally parroted in courtroom. Prior to our trial, DTSC officers declined to share that info due to the company’s ongoing investigation into Tenborg’s allegedly unlawful practices.
Within the aftermath of the trial, Velie and I discovered that we have now many pals on this county and past. A group of them banded collectively to rent Carl Knudson, a outstanding personal investigator with a background as an IRS forensic sleuth whose work is credited with bringing down the Columbia cartels and unraveling the Oliver North fiasco within the late 1980s.
Knudson’s task was to confirm the information contained within the offending article. He would uncover rather more past that scope.
The investigator’s insertion into the equation had an virtually quick impression. Simply months after the residents’ group retained Knudson, Wagstaffe proposed settlement gives to Velie and me.
As beforehand reported, Velie’s supply stipulated that Tenborg would abandon his complete monetary declare in change for her settlement to by no means once more report on him or his corporations. (Sure, that is simply as suspicious because it sounds.)
Wagstaffe attorneys sought the identical pledge from me, however my state of affairs was totally different. Tenborg already had pressured me into Chapter 7 chapter, and I almost misplaced the house I’ve owned with my spouse for 22 years. A belief fund had been established by the chapter trustee and funded by a $100,000 second on my residence, thanks to the generosity of one among my spouse’s sisters. Tenborg provided to divide his “share” of that fund’s cash.
And, in what was described as a “non-negotiable” provision, an analogous gag order was proposed to cowl Worrell and the IWMA, additionally. Neither the IWMA nor Worrell was celebration to Tenborg’s libel grievance towards CalCoastNews. (What does this say?)
The supply additionally would have required termination of Knudson’s investigation, a matter over which neither Velie nor I had any management. We each rejected Tenborg’s calls for.
Whereas these negotiations dragged on, Hill and his blogger buddy questioned on-line if Velie and I might select suicide, or just depart city. The blogger buddy threatened to throw bleach in Velie daughter’s eyes, incomes him a short lived restraining order.
Now, nevertheless, armed with information that Worrell, Tenborg, and Hill hoped we’d by no means possess, it’s time to return serve. It’s probably that each one three males might have thought greater than as soon as that this can be a struggle they want they’d by no means began.
Worrell, confronted with proof of his historical past of fiscal mismanagement and astounding abuse of an IWMA bank card, was pressured to resign a yr earlier than he deliberate whereas county officers decide the standing of his tax-supported retirement. And now he, Tenborg, Hill, and others are beneath a legal investigation by the San Luis Obispo County District Lawyer for his or her unchecked plunder of county taxpayers.
The IWMA has been a piggy financial institution for its staff and favored contractors.
These bullies thought we have been fatally wounded by their spurious lawsuit, and admittedly, they got here shut. Hill and Tenborg boasted brazenly about “getting Blackburn’s house.” And Velie will get hassled into courtroom each three months to clarify, once more, that she has no assets due to the lawsuit.
However we stay standing and proceed publishing, unwilling to bend to this malicious try to muzzle this information company. We proceed to maintain authorities accountable and to inform the general public. Why? As a result of we care about our group and we care concerning the fact.
It’s been one hell of a journey, however the end line is in sight — and that ought to be very, very disconcerting to Worrell, Tenborg, Hill, and their mendacity, scheming associates.
Daniel Blackburn could be harassed at firstname.lastname@example.org
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