By KAREN VELIE
Debbie Peterson resigned from the Grover Beach City Council at the end of Tuesdays board meeting because of allegations of corruption related to the local marijuana industry.
After 11 years on the council, Peterson said she could no longer be part of the city’s “pay-to-play insiders game.” Peterson voiced her concerns over allegations that some council members accepted bribes for their votes on cannabis retail store permits.
“I cannot betray the trust of those who elected me by looking the other way to avoid rocking the boat,” Peterson said. “Doing so, just to get along, is complicit and would make me as guilty as those who commit the evil, or those who choose to wear a blindfold. Every council member’s first duty is to the people, to take bold action when there is no other viable option.”
Peterson also discussed allegations of public corruption related to local government agencies.
In 2013, Peterson was able to procure the votes to hire Carl Knudson to investigate alleged criminal activity at the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District. At Tuesdays meeting, Peterson voiced concerns over the efforts of local officials to curb government corruption.
“The District Attorney relayed to me that there was much more there, but his team sought only the low-hanging fruit, charging the sewer district chief executive with multiple felony and misdemeanor conflicts of interest,” Peterson said.
In 2017, a group of citizens personally funded Knudson’s investigation into suspected malfeasance at the San Luis Obispo County Integrated Waste Management Authority. While the SLO County District Attorney’s Office has launched an investigation, Peterson is concerned over the thoroughness of the inquiry.
Peterson also voiced concerns regarding the Grover Beach City Council’s appointments of officials who have supported criminal behavior in the past to the current sewer district and waste management boards.
“I have finally conceded that I am beat, and to continue to serve within my own council would be commensurate to complicity,” Peterson said. “Only the intervention of higher authorities – governmental, legislative, law enforcement, the courts, and the fourth estate – can make the difference now.”