State agency rejects complaint about Newport Councilman Peotter’s financial reporting

The California Fair Political Practices Commission has rejected a complaint against Newport Beach City Councilman Scott Peotter about his financial filings.

The state agency dismissed the complaint for lack of evidence of a violation, an FPPC spokesman said Tuesday evening.

Newport Beach activist Susan Skinner, a leader in a recall effort underway against Peotter, lodged the complaint in June, suggesting that Peotter did not properly disclose his economic interests during his time as a member of the council, on which he has served since 2014, or as a Newport Beach planning commissioner before that.

She said her chief concern was that income Peotter reported through Capitol Ministries, an organization that spreads gospel to local, state and federal government leaders, may actually have been undisclosed donations to finance a lay ministry.

Peotter said at the time that the income was direct payment from Capitol Ministries for his work to expand its mission to local governments, not money he raised to support his own ministry.

Skinner also questioned why Peotter reported no income from 2006 to 2010, the years he served on the Planning Commission.

Skinner said Wednesday that she respects the FPPC’s decision but was let down.

“It seems to me, on the face of it, that there is a large conflict of interest and I’m disappointed that the FPPC isn’t going to pursue it,” she said.

Peotter did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The complaint against him was rejected in late July, but Skinner said the commission did not notify her. The Daily Pilot learned of the rejection after asking the FPPC about the status of the case Tuesday.

In general, complaints are reviewed to determine whether they have merit — enough information or evidence to suggest a violation of the state Political Reform Act. The initial review takes a few days to a few weeks.

The FPPC’s Enforcement Division — which consists of about 30 lawyers, investigators, auditors and staff members — looks through complaints and will open certain cases for investigation.

Though Skinner’s complaint was rejected, FPPC Communications Director Jay Wierenga said a 2015 complaint against Peotter related to campaign contributions remains open.

That complaint, filed by Jeff Herdman, who is now a councilman, focused on contributions Peotter received during his 2014 council campaign from Woody’s Wharf, a Balboa Peninsula restaurant and bar that had been engaged in litigation with the city for years over the establishment’s desire for extended hours and dancing.

The restaurant’s owners made maximum individual contributions of $1,100 each, and Peotter reported an $1,100 contribution from the restaurant as an entity.

After the city clerk advised Peotter that the donation from the restaurant violated the contribution limit because it was attributable to the owners, Peotter produced a copy of a check showing he had returned the restaurant’s donation.

hillary.davis@latimes.com

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