The California Fair Political Practices Commission this week declined, for a second time, to pursue conflict of interest allegations against Newport Beach Mayor Marshall “Duffy” Duffield and City Council colleague Scott Peotter.
The decision Tuesday closed the loop on a string of related unsuccessful complaints that local activist Susan Skinner made to the state political watchdog agency about the pair’s business relationship.
Skinner filed her initial complaint in September, followed by two amendments in October, asking for an investigation of a possible Duffield-Peotter employment arrangement. The partnership was confirmed between her first and second amendments when state and local documents showed that Duffield had tapped Peotter, an architectural and development consultant, to do the legwork on parceling 4.7 acres Duffield owns in the city of Adelanto in San Bernardino County. The property is the site of the factory for Duffield’s Duffy Electric Boat Co.
The FPPC rejected Skinner’s initial complaint and first follow-up Oct. 17, citing insufficient evidence of a conflict of interest violation of the Political Reform Act. It rejected the second follow-up using almost identical language.
“Based on a review of the complaint and documentation provided, the Enforcement Division found insufficient evidence of a violation of the Political Reform Act and will not pursue an enforcement action in this matter,” FPPC Enforcement Division Chief Galena West wrote in a letter to Skinner.
Skinner held firm to her grievances after the decision.
“I am profoundly disappointed that neither the FPPC nor our City Attorney Aaron Harp will take any action against the many conflict of interest and campaign law violations that have occurred in the last four years,” she said. “The only recourse left for the residents is to use the power of their vote next Tuesday to restore ethics and integrity to our city government.”
Duffield and Peotter are both up for reelection next week.
Duffield regularly recuses himself from City Council votes on Newport Harbor matters because of potential business conflicts related to Duffy Electric Boat Co., which has a harborfront office on West Coast Highway. Peotter does not recuse himself from those votes.
Skinner has argued that if Duffield is a source of income for Peotter, Duffield’s conflicts of interest are also Peotter’s. She submitted a Daily Pilot article on the parceling work, along with supporting government documents, as evidence of the pair’s business connection.
Duffield said he split the Adelanto property, which is in the city’s medicinal marijuana “cultivation zone,” into thirds and sought a state cannabis distribution permit to make the property more attractive to buyers so he can move his factory to Utah.
Duffield said he doesn’t want to grow or distribute marijuana himself but wants to take advantage of the increased property values.