Newport council to consider possible probe of Peotter recall petitions


The Newport Beach City Council may vote Tuesday on whether to move ahead with a suggested probe of possibly fraudulent signature-gathering in the recent unsuccessful recall effort against Councilman Scott Peotter.

A city-led investigation is allowed under a section of the city charter that gives members of the council the power to subpoena witnesses and question them under oath “in any investigation or proceeding pending before the City Council.”

In this case, the investigation would be to follow up on the possibility, raised publicly by recall organizers, that paid petition circulators retained last year by the Committee to Recall Scott Peotter forged signatures.

In January, the Orange County district attorney’s office seized the recall petitions from the county registrar of voters office over concerns about “potential irregularities.”

A few weeks before, the registrar’s office announced that it had validated only 8,339 of the 10,696 recall signatures submitted. That was 106 short of the 8,445 — representing 15% of the city’s registered voters — needed to force a special recall election.

The search warrant affidavit is sealed, so specific allegations of irregularities are unavailable. However, recall organizers said they believed an outside petition circulator may have forged signatures.

Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill said the council is obligated to look into such a serious claim and called for the probe at the council’s Jan. 23 meeting. He asked that, as a second step, formal consideration of the matter be placed on a future agenda.

As a third step, the council would vote on whether to hold a hearing.

Mayor Marshall “Duffy” Duffield quickened the process by placing the vote on whether to have the hearing on Tuesday’s agenda, eliminating the second step, as allowed under council policy.

The item is on the meeting’s consent calendar, where items are usually voted on en masse with no discussion, although council members can pull items for discussion and separate votes.

Police headquarters and airport issues

In other matters Tuesday, the council may vote on a proposed $554,000 remodel of the Newport Beach police station.

City staff recommends awarding a $496,000 contract to Santa Clarita-based TL Veterans Construction Inc., plus setting aside about $50,000 for contingencies and $8,000 for incidentals.

The police building was built in 1973, and its last major interior remodel was in 1985.

The council also will hold a study session covering John Wayne Airport issues, including a settlement with the Federal Aviation Administration in January, departure paths and procedures and additional noise monitoring. The council had planned to discuss the matter at its annual planning session Jan. 29 but ran short of time.

Tuesday’s meeting starts at 4:30 p.m. with the study session, followed by the regular session at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 100 Civic Center Drive.

Twitter: @Daily_PilotHD