When it takes the mayor of Newport Beach almost two months to answer a simple yes-or-no question, something’s terribly wrong.
At the Aug. 29 West Newport Candidate Forum, I asked my opponent, Mayor Marshall Duffield, if he’d ever employed councilman Scott Peotter during their time on council.
Up until this week, the two have refused to answer this question.
Peotter called it “rumors.”
Duffield was noticeably absent from subsequent candidate forums after I raised the question.
Now it’s come out that the two did in fact have a business relationship, and Peotter was paid to advocate to obtain a cannabis cultivation permit for Duffield’s property in Adelanto. Why all the secrecy?
I believe in property rights, and if this permit increases Duffield’s ability to sell his land for a higher price as he stated to the Daily Pilot, then why not come out and say that when I first asked the question?
Part of why I asked the question in the first place, was because prior to this particular debate the issue had been raised by Susan Skinner with City Attorney Aaron Harp, who told her he didn’t “have any documents or other evidence that Council Member Peotter has performed work for Mayor Duffield for compensation, how much compensation was received, if any, or the nature of the work, if any.”
And as it was reported in the Daily Pilot, the “inquiry primarily relates to past conduct.”
So did he know about their business relationship or not?
His two comments don’t add up.
Was there a prior relationship?
We now know these two worked on this cannabis project in 2017.
I felt it was important to put the issue out on the table at the West Newport Forum so we could move forward in future debates discussing issues facing our city like high-density development, traffic and John Wayne Airport, and not focus on this.
Quite frankly, when I asked the question I expected a simple yes or no from Duffield.
All these weeks later, I can’t begin to speculate why Peotter and Duffield didn’t want to disclose their business relationship.
Their non-disclosure in this situation speaks to a fundamental problem of transparency and conflict-of-interest issues within this council, which does nothing to serve the people who elected them.
It’s time to restore confidence, openness and honesty to the City Council, and that’s why I’m running for office.
This whole Peotter-Duffield employment controversy could have been a non-issue if they’d handled themselves differently.
Knowing their business relationship was entering potentially unprecedented waters, why didn’t they consult the city attorney or bring it out openly and publicly?
Who else on council knew about their business relationship?
Their avoidance behavior raises so many questions.
It’s been my experience when folks have nothing to hide they are more than willing to be forth coming and put controversy to rest.
Unfortunately, this didn’t happen here.
With weeks left in this election we should be talking about the real issues facing our city, and not why our mayor and councilman were playing hide and seek with the truth.
Newport Beach resident Tim Stoaks is a City Council candidate in District 3.