Did Grover Beach mayor purposely conceal campaign donations?

May 12, 2016
John Shoals

John Shoals


Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals committed 52 violations of state campaign finance laws during his 2014 mayoral campaign, according to a complaint filed with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). The complaint alleges Shoals’ failure to disclose his campaign finances swayed the outcome of the election.

In Nov. 2014, Shoals defeated incumbent Grover Beach Mayor Debbie Peterson, who is currently a candidate for the District 3 San Luis Obispo County supervisor seat. Shoals received 54 percent of the vote, and Peterson garnered 44 percent. Had 170 voters chosen Peterson instead of Shoals, Peterson would have won the mayoral seat, the complaint says.

On Wednesday, local government watchdog Kevin Rice submitted a complaint to the FPPC that exposes Shoals’ failures to follow campaign finance laws. Shoals did not properly report more than half of the $20,712 he raised in total contributions during the 2014 campaign.

“John P. Shoals has demonstrated an exceptionally noxious pattern and practice of failing to report required information in campaign reports, filing reports days or weeks late or not filing reports at all,” Rice says in the FPPC complaint. “Shoals deprived his opponent (and the public) of knowledge of large late contributions, several mailings, display ads and automated telephone calls. Had Shoals not hidden his campaign finances, his opponent would likely have adjusted strategy and swayed the election result.”

California law requires candidates to file reports within 24 hours when they receive contributions of $1,000 or more within 90 days of an election. Shoals failed to file reports for five such contributions during the 2014 mayoral race and did not report two contributions of more than $1,000 until about three months after the election.

The five contributions totaled $7,229. Four of the five donations were non-monetary contributions from Central Coast Printing in Grover Beach, a shop that printed campaign brochures for Shoals.

Rice’s FPPC complaint also alleges Shoals failed to accurately report when he began raising money and never reported at least one non-monetary contribution.

Additionally, Shoals reported improper street addresses and occupations for several of his donors. In one case, Shoals listed a private mailbox at a UPS store as his donor’s address, a violation of state reporting rules.

Furthermore, Shoals reported receiving a $250 contribution from SLO County Supervisor Adam Hill, but Hill’s financial disclosure states the donation came from the supervisor’s campaign committee.

Shoals, who currently works for PG&E, had previously served on the city council for 10 years, including two terms as the city’s directly elected mayor. Shoals was termed out from running for reelection in 2012, but he reentered the mayoral race in 2014 and won.

“Mayor Shoals has served a number of terms in office and is a public affairs representative for PG&E. He should be aware of and following the law,” Rice wrote in a statement to CalCoastNews.

Rice reviews the financial disclosures of most major candidates and ballot initiatives in the area. Shoals’ reports drew his attention in late 2014 because of omissions and late filings, Rice said.

Later, Rice decided to file a complaint after discovering Shoals had not filed reports that were due within 24 hours and that more than half of Shoals’ contributions were not reported on time or at all.

Following an investigation into the matter, the FPPC may issue a warning or a fine to Shoals.

Shoals did not respond to a request for comment. He is eligible to run for reelection this year.



  1. grayotter1 says:

    Under the “cheaters never prosper penalty” the office goes to Debbie Peterson… If you can’t play fair you shouldn’t be in the game!

    (5) 13 Total Votes - 9 up - 4 down
    • discloser says:

      grayotter – you otter support those kinds of allegations with facts, otherwise it’s just a variation on the bully theme.

      (-3) 7 Total Votes - 2 up - 5 down
  2. ajdury says:

    This information explains a LOT.

    So many Grover people I know personally were utterly surprised that Mayor Peterson did not retain her seat. In talking with them, they said they knew many other folks who supported her, were going to vote for her and that her signs were in so many locations it looked like a lock for her reelection.

    It is clear now that the seedy side of our “local” politics is much more insidious than we were willing to admit.

    When (soon to be former) District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill came to the Grover city council to dress down and attempt to put Mayor Peterson *in her place*, regarding the APCD issues, we really got a taste of the Adam Hill County Domination Agenda and political machine.

    It’s sickening and we deserve better from our Supervisor.

    (17) 31 Total Votes - 24 up - 7 down
  3. kayaknut says:

    Attend a San District meeting and watch Mr. Shoals stonewall all attempts to uncover the theft by John Wallace and company and that will tell you all you need to know about Mr. Shoals

    (28) 34 Total Votes - 31 up - 3 down
  4. PismoPat says:

    That election also affected the San District investigation and delayed it several months.

    PG&E has lots of sway politically in SLO County. That has the potential of being a bad thing when someone like Adam Hill is involved.

    (28) 34 Total Votes - 31 up - 3 down
  5. Rambunctious says:

    Cheaters never prosper…if he has cheated he will pay. I think it’s one of the Golden Rules.(;)

    (14) 22 Total Votes - 18 up - 4 down
  6. Kaiser Bill says:

    John Shoals is a LOBBYIST for PG&E.

    The fact that Shoals works as a lobbyist for a large utility company while serving as Mayor of Grover Beach speaks volumes about his ethics, or lack thereof.

    (30) 44 Total Votes - 37 up - 7 down

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