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.


You know, it’s shady AT BEST.

This guy has political experience. As others have said, he knows the rules regarding reporting campaign donations. This goes to his personal character OR his level of incompetence. It is one or the other. I personally believe it is the FORMER. I met Mr. Shoals years ago. He was running for Mayor, and he actually went door to door, saying he wanted to meet residents. I asked him if he were a democrat, republican, independent, green party. He refused my question. Well, technically he evaded the question, saying Mayoral candidates don’t run based on political party. When I told him that wasn’t what I asked him, he smiled but wouldn’t answer.

That is pretty much the way *I* perceive the way he deals with everything.

P.S.- Adam Hill’s “campaign” fund= Adam Hill. Why insult the voters in this way? If his name is on it, he had BETTER be responsible for it or why on earth are people entrusting him with ANYTHING?????? Why not just own it? Is this how we do things now, playing semantics????

I am going to start saving these excuses and make an E-Book or something– How to lie and get out of trouble in SLO County. You can take it to court, to the BOS meeting, then start quoting your favorite Political, media, social figures. I mean, if THEY can say/do it, why can’t WE????

Just when I think politics locally, state and federally can’t get ANY more ridiculous,, BAM, it does. I am afraid to ask “what’s next?”

what the

Adam Hill’s money in Shoals’ pocket = bad news. Fire Adam Hill and Mr. Shoals.


This is important news but I think more timely would be the news re: Hill and his campaign reporting data. Why don’t you rehash his failure to properly report the source of his income from a limited partnership deal with developers.

This is much more important and needs to be repeated to the CCN readership!!


Shoals a three-time mayor and Peterson got elected only because Shoals had to sit out that election and then he defeats her? Geez, Kevin, maybe the people of Grover Beach like their Mayor Shoals. Ever think of that? The accusations sound a lot like minor technical violations, not the stuff by which elections are won or lost.

Kaiser Bill

Shoals is a paid tool, IE lobbyist, for P&E. He is a total scumbag doing the bidding of the local power company while double dipping as a politician. Can you say ethics violation?

don the beachcomber

Congratulations to Kevin Rice for trying to keep SLO County honest!


He’s a politician. Lying and stealing are prerequisites for the job.


Debbie Peterson is behind Kevin even bringing this up now IMO. Why not bring it up a year ago?

Debbie is a sore loser, and knows she is not going to win the supervisor seat, so she is going after Shoals. I am not a Shoals fan, but I think she is going to go after his seat again, and that is why this is bringing brought up.

Debbie has said Dan does not have skin in the game because he has not put any of his own money in. I think Dan knew he had enough supporters, he did not need to fund his own campaign.

Then Debbie points out Dan’s in kind donations, well she is suppose to do the same and is not so shame on her.

I am tired of Debbie taking credit for things she did not have anything to do with. She won’t admit she is helping with the high speed train, and she has not done much campaigning in SLO and mail in ballots are out. Early on she said if it became apparent she would not win, she would step aside and let Dan have her votes.

Funny thing Debbie did not do that so her word is not to be taken seriously.

Can she actually deal with a large budget like Slo has or will she just analyze everything once again. Does she actually know the wants, needs and desires or Slo or is she just hoping to oust Adam?

For helping start so many companies up here, she never names one of them. Her big claim to fame is selling cookies in the UK 16 years ago.

I do hope a serious contender runs for mayor of GB, so we can get things on the right track with the sanitation district, and Grover beach. Why they have the old chief of police as your city manager makes no sense other than politics.John Shoals is just a politician looking out for his own interest and not those of his district.

Debbie Peterson is just wanting to prove she is still politically viable.


Kevin Rice

>> “Debbie Peterson is behind Kevin even bringing this up now IMO. Why not bring it up a year ago?”

I appreciate your opinion, but it is inaccurate. I review many campaign filings and frequently correspond to treasurers if I believe an error exists. Two current supervisor candidates have amended recent filings as result of my feedback.

The reason I didn’t file this last year is due to the sheer enormity of work involved. If you read my 154 page, 7,000 word complaint you’ll see what I’m talking about. In fact, I began working on this over a year ago. I waited until the August filings were in, then it got to be late December so I waited for Shoals’ February filing. There are well over 100 hours of work in my complaint, and I work 100 to 144 hours per week, so it did take months to complete.

I support both Dan and Debbie. Either would be an awesome county supervisor. Vote your conscience. Unless it’s Adam; in which case your conscience is skewed.


Kevin writes:

I review many campaign filings and frequently correspond to treasurers…

True story: If you do that with Adam Hill’s campaign — where you ask his treasurer a simple question involving Hill’s campaign disclosure forms — a funny thing happens: You do NOT get an answer from his treasurer.


Instead, you get a response from Adam, himself, and his response to a simple/fair question for his campaign treasurer is, “Stop bothering my campaign staff,” and that’s the only response you get, and you never get the questioned answered.

Hey, “representative” government, yo.

See? Funny.


Voters of Grover Beach deserve the truth.

If Mayor Shoals acted improperly it may impact the upcoming election.

Thank you Mr. Rice.

Mike Byrd

This is the most convoluted chain of reasoning I’ve seen in a very long time. One candidate is accused of what may be the most significant series of campaign violations we’ve ever seen locally and the reaction is to attack the person who was most damaged by those violations.

There may be a word of truth somewhere in your diatribe but your ugly tone and false allegations closed my mind to anything you may have to say.

It’s no secret that I respect and support Debbie Peterson but I’ve also tried to keep an open mind about Dan Carpenter who I’ve liked as a person. But I have to say, the more I see of such Adam Hill-style attacks by his supporters, the harder it becomes for me to keep my mind open about him. I suspect you’re not doing him any great benefit when you drag his good name into this kind of attack.


Mike I am not voting for Dan or supporting Dan. I am saying stuff I have heard Debbie AND/OR her supporters say.

Between Kevin and you I don’t care about anything either one of you have to say.

Kaiser Bill

Are you voting for Adam Hill?


Well, that makes it OK. I guess Shoals’ behavior would be ok unless there are more than 5 degrees of separation between the whistle blower and the perp?

Mr. Holly

Tom Jones (PG&E) + John Shoals (PG&E) + Adam Hill = ?

Ones imagination could run wild with this formula.


But Debbie Peterson couldn’t even win re-election as Mayor, how can she be elected as Supervisor? ; well, if her competition was cheating, perhaps her chances of winning were drastically reduced, heh? I always thought there was more to this story, thanks CCN for this article, and thanks to Kevin Rice for pursuing the compliant to the FCC.


If Rice pursued this to the FCC it isn’t going to go anywhere.

Kevin Rice