Debbie Peterson and Cal Coast News: The Professional Victim Grifters

Aaron Ochs
5 min readJun 18, 2022
Former Grover Beach Councilwoman Debbie Peterson

“Congratulations! You’re in the book!”

That was a message I got from a friend of mine who purchased former Grover Beach councilwoman Debbie Peterson’s newly released book, The Happiest Corruption: Sleaze, Lies, & Suicide in a California Beach Town last week. Since Cal Coast News was promoting the book as “exposing [San Luis Obispo County] corruption” and was touting conspiracy theories that I touched upon in my 2019 book Defamers: How Fake News Terrorized the Community & Those Who Dared to Fight It, I decided to obtain a copy.

To be honest, I found Peterson’s book underwhelming, despite it being an Amazon bestseller for “Legal Services” for some reason.

I’m flipping through the 456 pages of Peterson’s book and I couldn’t help but notice she had copied and pasted several articles from Cal Coast News. A significant chunk of the book pertained to former District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill, who committed suicide in August 2020, nearly a year before federal officials revealed he took bribes from SLO County cannabis mogul Helios Dayspring. Peterson used Hill’s corruption and suicide to propel her narrative as the perfect whistleblower who was retaliated against by Hill and his cabal of co-conspirators. Cal Coast News co-founder Daniel Blackburn incestuously reviewed the book, which he essentially co-wrote, as offering “solid, documented, almost exhaustive proof” of corruption in the entire county.

Not quite. There is a lot of self-righteous narcissism, ranting and accusations that didn’t past the smell test with Tribune fact-checks and the courts, but not wholly substantive. I’m not going to review the book beyond that summary.

At this point, I think it’s fair to say that Hill said and did things he shouldn’t have done. That point has been made over and over again nearly two years after his death. Yet he somehow remains as a looming specter over the county and the 2022 primary elections. The SLO County Republican Party had already put it out there that they were going to target any political candidate associated with Hill. And without proof of corruption, they were going to accuse them of corruption. Peterson, a Democrat, enthusiastically endorsed that playbook and cashed in.

Aaron Ochs

Author, artist, advocate and entrepreneur from Morro Bay, California.