Los Angeles Times

Venezia: There's truth in these rumors

People love to gossip. After all, a little "dish" now and then keeps things interesting.

And when it comes to Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, there's no shortage of political speculation making the rounds.

I thought I'd have some fun and explore two topics — one in each city — currently hot on people's lips.

First up is Newport Beach, where City Council candidate Joe Stapleton is said to have his eye on being appointed to Councilman Keith Curry's seat, should Curry get elected to the Assembly in November and resign.

Stapleton dropped out of the council race in March after making a bid for Councilman Mike Henn's termed-out seat.

Chatter is that Stapleton's planning to move out of Henn's district and into Curry's, allowing him to qualify for the appointment.

What does Stapleton say about all this?

"That's awesome! All that really is a rumor," he says. "I think it's great that people are still talking about me."

He told me he's happy to be out of the race and hasn't talked to anyone on the current council about replacing Curry.

Stapleton says these days he's devoting his time to work and his duties on the Harbor Commission and Chamber of Commerce.

He's also planning to ask his girlfriend to marry him and says they may be moving.

"My girlfriend and I are planning to share a life together, and we're starting to discuss it and explore different parts of the city," Stapleton said.

Is he done with politics?

Not yet.

He says he "remains passionate about the community."

There's lots of "ifs" here.

I wouldn't be surprised if Stapleton's new home happens to be in Curry's district. And if Curry does resign, I bet Stapleton's name will be among those vying to replace him.

Curry, by the way, told me he won't be able to vote on anyone to replace him anyway, so this is of no consequence to him.

Newport Chamber of Commerce President Steve Rosansky said he would back Stapleton if Curry's seat opened up but hasn't been involved in the effort to draft Stapleton for a council appointment.

"I supported him when he was running, and if he was living in the district I would continue to support him, but I'm not the motivator," he told me.

Newport Councilman Ed Selich says he's heard the rumors but no one's called him about how to fill Curry's seat.

I saw Henn on April 17 at the Feet to the Fire Forum — where I first heard about the effort to appoint Stapleton — and he said he'd rather not comment on the matter.


Moving onto Costa Mesa, I heard Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce CEO Ed Fawcett is ready to retire.

Fawcett's been at the chamber for 22 years and told me it's no secret he's going to hang it up at the end of this year.

"I wanted to retire in 2010 and then God giggled and changed the world economy," he joked.

I asked Fawcett who might replace him.

"I have no comment on anyone they're talking to — anyone crazy enough to take this job," Fawcett said and then laughed.

Fawcett explained it's up to the chamber board of directors to find his replacement.

"Once they make a decision, hopefully I will be part of the smooth transition," Fawcett said.

Next I called Mayor Jim Righeimer. He had not heard that Fawcett is retiring, adding that he's not pushing for anyone to replace him.

Also, as he and Fawcett pointed out to me, the chamber is independent of the city, which has no say in who becomes chamber chief.

I'm hearing all sorts of names being thrown around town about who might want to replace Fawcett. A few might raise some eyebrows.


Last week I wrote about the ongoing bad blood between community activist Bob Rush and Newport Mayor Rush Hill.

Rush wrote to the Fair Political Practices Commission, appealing to re-open the 2012 case he filed against Hill regarding a potential conflict of interest involving a vote Hill made when he voted on a preliminary proposal to improve sidewalks and street medians close to a commercial building he owns.

Rush took exception to my column, which reported that Hill had been cleared. He says the adjudication letter to Hill found otherwise, and that the FPPC warned Hill, even if it didn't fine him.

The letter did indeed say Hill shouldn't have voted but it also said the matter wasn't serious enough to warrant a fine.

Hill, for his part, called the FPPC finding a "vindication."

Nevertheless, Hill told me this week that the FPPC has declined Rush's request to re-open the case against him.

BARBARA VENEZIA, whose column appears Fridays, lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at bvontv1@gmail.com.

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