Corruption allegations continue to dog local marijuana industry

October 28, 2018

San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill

By KAREN VELIE

Battles over control of the multi-million dollar Central Coast marijuana industry have led to a barrage of ethical and criminal allegations. [Cal Coast Times]

Some elected officials and government employees have been accused of taking bribes and engaging in inappropriately close relationships with marijuana business owners and consultants. Local marijuana kingpins, several elected officials, and a political consultant are at the center of the controversy.

Shortly after Californians voted for the legalization of recreational marijuana, San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill and consultant Cory Black began courting marijuana growers with promises of success in exchange for money, multiple growers said.

In fall 2016, a group of local marijuana farm owners said that Supervisor Hill had asked them to place money into envelopes he brought to a grower’s meeting if they wanted his support.

Following the meeting, on Sept. 26, 2016, attendee Reggie Collins sent out an email asking cannabis farmers to each give Hill $1,000 for his support.

“I am calling a special meeting to donate $ and help to his campaign,” Collins wrote. “My farm donated $1,000 recently. He is prepared to speak and attend our meeting. This is a mandatory donation for attendees.”

The next day, Collins sent out another email explaining his plan.

“My plan is to get the people who will pay to play,” Collins wrote.

While Collins confirmed that he had donated to Hill’s campaign, Hill did not report a donation from Collins on his financial disclosure fillings. Hill did not respond to questions about the email or the alleged donation.

Cory Black at a county meeting listening to discussions on marijuana regulations

Black’s political consulting firm, Public Policy Solutions, contributed significantly to Hill’s election. Meanwhile, Hill argued for marijuana regulations that favored Black’s clients. Black did not return requests for comment.

In Sept. 2016, the board of supervisors directed SLO County planning staff to construct an ordinance regulating the local marijuana industry. However, staffers repeatedly failed to follow board direction in favor of proposed regulations that appeared to support the larger growers affiliated with Black.

At a SLO County Board of Supervisors meeting in Oct. 2017, Christopher Matthews said staff’s draft ordinance disadvantaged the smaller growers. He questioned whether staff was biased because a political consultant who works for Hill, Supervisor Bruce Gibson, Sheriff Ian Parkinson and the planning department is also paid by several of the large marijuana businesses.

“The number one reason is the involvement of Cory Black and Public Policy Solutions in nearly every single aspect of the draft ordinance,” Matthews said. “How is someone who claims on their own website the county planning department as a client, allowed to represent clients applying for licenses under your own urgency ordinance? Why did the staff never raise the question that this is more than a conflict of interest, but rather an incubator for collusion and corruption?

“Can the county planning department be trusted to write a fair and impartial ordinance when they are clearly still working with Cory Black and Public Policy Solutions? Clearly, the answer is no.”

And a group of former grow supervisors at pot farms owned by marijuana mogul Helios Dayspring, accuse their former boss of paying Supervisor Hill and Black to promote rules and approvals that benefit Dayspring. In addition, the former workers said planning department inspectors have approved Dayspring’s sites without actually inspecting the grows.

Rather than respond to questions about the allegations, Dayspring hung up on a reporter.

In Grover Beach, multiple members of the marijuana industry have alleged corruption in the Grover Beach City Council’s marijuana store approval process.

In 2017, amid allegations of threats and backroom deals, the Grover Beach City Council awarded three marijuana shop permits to applicants who were political contributors to Mayor John Shoals and Councilman Jeff Lee. All three have connections to Black.

Shoals and Lee veered from staff’s recommendations, selecting Dayspring’s Natural Healing Center, The Monarch and 805 Beach Breaks as their top three choices.

Mayor John Shoals and Councilman Jeff Lee

Based on a point system developed by a Grover Beach subcommittee on marijuana, staff weighted specific attributes of each candidate and then ranked them accordingly. Shoals and Lee together made up the subcommittee on marijuana, about which city officials refused to disclose details.

Even though city staff ranked 805 Beach Breaks in seventh place for points earned, Shoals and Lee touted the applicant as a great choice for a city cannabis shop. One of the founders of 805 Beach Breaks, Ed Esters, had been convicted in 1997 of drugging, raping and sodomizing a female victim. When asked about the conviction, Shoals held his hand up in a reporter’s face before walking away.

A few months before the vote, marijuana business advocate Claire Mamakos said she was at a winery event when one of founders of 805 Beach Breaks said she had already been promised one of the Grover Beach marijuana shop permits, Mamakos said.

Before Shoals and Lee selected Dayspring’s Natural Healing Center as their top choice, Dayspring had been involved in a variety of controversial child-related activities. In April 2017, Dayspring sponsored an Easter egg hunt in Grover Beach for children ages 1-11 where his marijuana delivery service was advertised on banners, hats and T-shirts.

Councilman Lee attended the event and commended Dayspring’s medical pot business for its involvement in the community.

Several of Dayspring’s former grow supervisors, said that Dayspring’s involvement includes paying public officials for votes and support.

Two of the former grow supervisors, who have asked to remain unnamed because of fear of retaliation, said Supervisor Adam Hill and Black introduced Dayspring to Grover Beach Council members.

Helios Dayspring, rapper Xzibit and Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals outside a building Dayspring planned to house one of his marijuana businesses

Another former grow supervisor, Tony Brocking, said Dayspring boasted of paying public officials.

“Dayspring told me he paid the mayor $100,000,” Brocking said. “He was guaranteed a spot.”

Councilman Lee did not respond to requests for comment. Mayor Shoals denied the allegations.

“I categorically deny these allegations,” Shoals said.

Several months ago, a friend of two of Dayspring’s partners in several of his cannabis businesses, Rick Holiday, repeated the allegations of a six-figure bribe.

“What if I were to tell you that a certain Grover Beach council member took a very large (6 figure) bribe for a favorable vote on one of the medical marijuana dispensaries,” Holiday wrote on a reporter’s Facebook page. “How do I know this for a fact you ask? Because the person who gave the money to the council person personally told me almost 6 months before the vote that they had paid the council person and we’re guaranteed ‘a spot’ in Grover Beach to sell Cannabis!”

Currently, Supervisor Hill is promoting select city council and mayor candidates in the cities of San Luis Obispo, Grover Beach and Arroyo Grande. At the same time, the San Luis Obispo City Council is deciding who can operate cannabis shops in their city, with a point based system similar to what was approved in Grover Beach.

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criticalobserver

Dow is an incredibly weak defender of justice. Scared of his own shadow. Ian is about one thing only – money. All blow no go as our supposed top law enforcement official. This is the most corrupt county in the United States. 


Smith

It’s not too late, Dow. You can be Superman! Just do your job. 


analyticone

nazbol gang – YES, YES, YES! It is hugely important for the general public to consider before they vote who the representatives they vote for represent. LOOK at who donates to them. If they are supported by special interests they will be beholden to those interests who elected them.


RESEARCH how they vote and who they hang out with. Vote integrity regardless of party. The Superman to knock heads is YOU, THE VOTING PUBLIC. You have your vote, but you also must participate outside of voting: report crime when you come across it, speak during public comment at council meetings, post on public media, notify the press and media, email and write to your elected representatives. Corrupt politicians will listen and cooperate if they have to in order to be re-elected. Honest politicians will listen and take honest action. Either way, if YOU participate in numbers YOUR will will be done. The institutions are YOURS so ride herd on them; guard them as if it’s your own money, because it IS your money.


Your representatives and law enforcement can only do their jobs well and keep order if YOU keep them informed. Who do you tell? The County District Attorney’s office in SLO, the police department, the FBI, the Fair Political Practices Commission, the state Attorney General. Whatever you do, don’t give up and don’t do it alone – bring in as many reinforcements as you can.


nazbol gang

You know I was thinking as I paid my quarterly taxes today, trying to make sure I accounted for everything and all the numbers went in the right boxes. Why don’t I behave like these a-holes do? I could make up a bunch of fake numbers and be corrupt too. See this is the problem with allowing rampant corruption. The rule of law becomes meaningless, or more accurately it becomes thuggish. No one has any incentive at that point to be a good person besides the fear of retribution by whoever owns the legal process at any given moment, always subject to change in the on going turf wars. People need leaders, and when the leaders are self serving the entire system falls apart. Why am I working hard and following the rules when these lazy a-holes get the good life for bad behavior? This is the main reason this corruption can’t be allowed to go one. These people need to be made an example of by a benevolent leadership or the entire idea of order is at risk of becoming meaningless. I don’t know what the solution is but some superman needs to come in and start knocking heads.


nazbol gang

Who’s responsibility is it to prosecute and arrest these a-holes? Why aren’t they doing their job? Who is above the people who are supposed to be prosecuting and arresting these a-holes? Why aren’t they doing their job as well? This is insane.


obispan

Shoals has been openly corrupt for decades. Hell, if you get away with it why not?


Jorge Estrada

When I read stories like this, an opinion over these allegations get overshadowed by who is going to jail, the author or the star performers? Dang I forgot, much of California is a sanctuary something and even Salud Carbajal has his favorites for sanctuary status. This is the world voters have empowered.


George Bailey

Folks,


By now, I think it is clear that SLO County 3rd District Supervisor Adam Hill is criminally corrupt, and it is also apparent that Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals and Councilman Jeff Lee share his criminal orientation.


We need to get rid of corrupt politicians and these three clearly need to go, because, as this story shows, these three have their hand out and are more than willing to accept bribes.


Dump 3rd District Supervisor Adam Hill.

Dump Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals and Councilman Jeff Lee


Thanks,


Mr. George Bailey


Ricky2

Wow! If half of this is true . . . Of course, all have known Hill’s a scoundrel, and now he’s in overdrive promoting his minion Heidi Harmon, whose campaign propaganda has come out from Hill’s email account before it’s sent from hers! The Hill-Harmon alliance is another good reason to vote against our fake-progressive incumbent mayor for somebody who has something worthwhile to contribute to the world. Harmon’s knee-deep in marijuana profiteering as her girlfriend/campaign manager has testified before the SLO

council her family is in the mj business. Conflict of interest at the very least. Doesn’t smell good either.