• This true crime story follows determined citizens who worked out how local government corruption happens, how to spot it, and how to fix it.
  • It is an inspiring account of the courage and tenacity of ordinary people who saved their communities and established good government.
  • A historical perspective of how citizen heroes got things done, the book demonstrates how and where everyday people can fit in to change their political present and future.
  • After reading this book, people will know how to beat city hall at its worst and how to be city hall at its best.

Most important of all, communities now know how to be sure their hometown doesn’t become the next Happiest Corruption in America.

Companion Books:

Local Government 101 – a guide for would-be elected representatives, appointees, and activists.  What nobody tells you about being a city councilmember.

How to Beat City HallStrategies for beating city hall from a former mayor.

365 Ways of Good Govern-ers – How everyday people turned on the lights at city hall


Sleaze Lies & Suicide in a California Beach Town

This is a true-crime story written by an insider. It is the account of politicians, government officials, developers, contractors, and cannabis kings, who operate a criminal machine that streams through every part of a small county, bankrolled by public funds, campaign donations, and pallet loads of cash generated by the most valuable crop in the nation.

It is a businesswoman’s journey from planning commission chair to city council member to mayor in the friendly little beach town she called “Kansas at the Beach.” It should have been a happy memoire. Instead, it evolved into a sinister citizens-turned-spy suspense epic of bribery, extortion, dark money, and death.

Like her neighbors, for years she couldn’t believe that the beaches, verdant crops, and wine-grape-clad hills that Oprah called the ‘happiest city in America’ and locals call ‘paradise’ could be riddled with corruption. But as the mayor, she heard whispered stories, sat around board room tables behind closed doors, and had access to people and facts that others do not.

She was able to connect the dots between dysfunctional boards, sexual harassment, whistleblowers, and millions of dollars missing from accounts. As the press and the public bought into and repeated the lies of conmen, the cabal coopted whole city councils, county departments, and businesses and delivered on both threats and promises.

A widely diverse group of sincere citizens previously unknown to one another and from all walks of life with little in common except the determination to bring integrity to their local government exposed facts and figures corroborating an epidemic of crime as far-reaching as Central America, Korea, Vietnam, and Russia. The informants coalesced to fight for honest governance putting their jobs, their reputations, their businesses, and their families at risk of reprisal because they simply couldn’t let this happen to their community. Together they uncovered the covert patterns and practices of the corrupt machine.

Press releases from the District Attorney, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Public Health matched the accounts from the brave citizens – number one in the state and number two in the nation in real estate loan fraud in 2012, a 2020 spike in synthetic opioid deaths to 55% above the state level, and the homicide capital of the country in 1850.


“A must-read, firsthand account of trouble in paradise from a former mayor who spent years in the political trenches. Peterson offers a much-needed primer for keeping local government open and accountable. Buy two copies. One for you and one for your local representative.”

Dave Congalton

KVEC Radio Host