The Tribune


FBI questioned SLO County supervisors about government corruption laws

Supervisor John Peschong said “they told me I’m a witness.”


Investigators with the FBI questioned San Luis Obispo County supervisors in mid-May, two months after the FBI searched the county Government Center and a residence in Pismo Beach.


Sitting elected officials John Peschong, Debbie Arnold and Bruce Gibson all confirmed with The Tribune on Thursday that they were individually questioned by officers between May 11 and May 14. The nature of the FBI investigation has not been disclosed, and a call to the agency’s regional headquarters in Los Angeles was not returned.


Supervisor Adam Hill of Pismo Beach attempted suicide on March 11, the same day the FBI served search-and-seizure warrants in the county. He told The Tribune in March he was cooperating with an FBI investigation. He did not respond to a request for comment for this story.


Peschong said members of the FBI appeared at his North County home without warning on the afternoon of May 11 and asked a series of questions regarding his knowledge of rules and laws about government transparency, political donations and gifts. It lasted about 40 minutes, he said.


“They told me I’m a witness,” he said. “They asked me if I understood the Brown Act, asked me if I understood the rules of the (Fair Political Practices Commission) in California, asked me about the rules for accepting gifts, asked if I understood how to recuse myself from a vote if I have a financial interest.”

Then, he said, “they talked to me about a supervisor, which I probably should not name names.”


Gibson confirmed he was questioned by the FBI for about an hour “a few weeks ago.” He declined to provide details.


Arnold said they asked her similar questions, about how meetings operate, open-meeting laws and whether someone at the county provides legal assistance. She said they spoke for several hours.

“They told me they were investigating corruption in government,” Arnold told The Tribune.


She said members of the FBI came to her rural Pozo home on Thursday, May 14, by appointment, which she said Supervisor Lynn Compton had recommended to the officers because the road to the house is blocked by several cattle gates.


Arnold said she believes the FBI questioned Compton on Tuesday the same week. Compton did not return requests for comment.


“I’m glad there is this kind of oversight,” Arnold said, adding that government is big with a lot of moving parts, and needs to be held accountable.


“How easy would it be to not follow the rules and not do what you’re supposed to be doing?” she asked, “Very easy, I guess.”


It was early morning on March 11 when the FBI served a warrant at the Government Center at 1055 Monterey St. in San Luis Obispo.


FBI spokesperson Laura Eimiller said at the time officials were seeking evidence in an ongoing investigation and the office was “unable to comment.” The warrant originated out of the U.S. District Court’s Central California division and was signed by a federal judge, Eimiller said.


Arnold said she was unaware of the activity when she attempted to go to her fourth-floor office that day to meet with her constituents. She was told her meetings were canceled and that she was unable to retrieve any files. She waited in the administrative office on the same floor for a few hours until members of the FBI left the building.


Once back in her office, she said, “it didn’t look like they touched anything.”


After officers questioned her in her home, Arnold said, she asked whether there would be conclusion to the investigation anytime soon and “they said they weren’t at liberty to talk about it.”