The Grover Beach City Council has been left with a vacancy after a councilwoman abruptly resigned at Tuesday night’s meeting, citing frustration over alleged corruption in city government.
Debbie Peterson, who served on the council for more than 10 years both as a council member and former mayor, submitted her resignation Tuesday at the end of a nearly four-hour-long meeting.
“I can’t in good conscience be associated with the council any further,” Peterson said. “I cannot betray the trust of those who elected me just to avoid rocking the boat.”
Peterson went on to allege corruption within the city government, citing the appointment of certain people she deemed to have exhibited criminal behavior to positions within the city’s sewer district and waste management boards.
Peterson also claimed some council members accepted bribes from people in the marijuana industry who wanted permits in the city.
“I cannot support those on the council who, with their political consultant, crafted a pay-to-play insider game,” Peterson told the council Tuesday. “Many members of the community and cannabis industry report that some dispensary applicants paid council members and their consultant to get their licenses approved.”
Peterson argued that she is a supporter of the cannabis industry in Grover Beach but said reputable business owners had been denied permits and approval was instead granted to people with criminal records.
No one at the meeting challenged Peterson’s claims but on Wednesday, Grover Beach City Manager Matt Bronson denied the allegations.
“At this point, there’s no corroborating evidence that the city has received, so at this point, we have not investigated because we have not received any evidence that would lead us to conduct such an investigation,” Bronson said.
Bronson said Peterson had leveled similar allegations against the city in the past but her resignation Tuesday was a surprise.
“(Her resignation) is not a normal occurrence, I will say that,” Bronson said. “However, things happen and we respond accordingly and at this point, the council is focused on carrying out the goals of the city and finding an individual to fill this vacant seat and I believe the council will work promptly in that regard.”
Peterson’s term was not set to expire until December 2020.
The council will decide at its March 4 meeting how to move forward with filling the vacant seat. Bronson said the council will either appoint a new council member to the position or hold a special election.