The Newport Beach City Council could hold its own investigation into possible petition fraud in the recent unsuccessful recall effort against Councilman Scott Peotter.
Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill on Tuesday called for the probe, citing 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.”
Earlier this month, the Orange County district attorney’s office seized the recall petitions over concerns about “potential irregularities.” The DA’s office took the petitions from the county registrar of voters office in Santa Ana.
The search warrant affidavit is sealed, so specific allegations are unavailable.
However, recall organizer Susan Skinner said she believed a paid third-party petition circulator contracted by the Committee to Recall Scott Peotter may have forged signatures. Other recall proponents have raised that possibility on social media.
In suggesting a city hearing on the matter, O’Neill said the council is obligated to look into such a serious claim.
“That is indeed, if true, an assault on the integrity of our election process, and we as a city should not take that lightly,” he said.
O’Neill said he would want to subpoena key people from the petition-circulating company, not members of the Committee to Recall Scott Peotter.
The committee’s campaign finance filings show that a company called PCI Consultants Inc. of Calabasas circulated petitions. As of October, the committee spent or owed a total of about $50,000 to the firm.
O’Neill compared the city’s potential hearing to a Senate hearing rather than a court proceeding.
For any such hearing to happen, O’Neill first had to ask that formal consideration of the matter be placed on a future council agenda. Next, the council would vote on whether to hold the hearing.
The registrar’s office announced in December that it had accepted as valid 8,339 of the 10,696 recall signatures submitted. That was 106 shy of the 8,445 — representing 15% of the city’s registered voters — needed to force a special recall election.
Newport Beach Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill spoke at the NB Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee meeting Thursday morning, covering a range of topics including the city budget, the harbor, and public safety.
He also explained the economic stability of Newport Beach to an audience of about 30 people.
O’Neill provided a “comprehensive update of the state of our city,” said former Mayor and Chamber’s Civic Affairs President Rush Hill.
“Will O’Neill also gave us insight into the importance of making financial decisions that contribute to the quality of life for future generations,” Hill added.
As far as city finances go, O’Neill explained that there are steady revenue sources, consistent surpluses, and healthy reserves. The city budget is balanced and overall in good shape, but there are issues that need to be addressed, particularly the unfunded pension liability and replacing the sea walls.
The total 2017-18 projected general fund revenue is about $209.3 million. Nearly half (47 percent) of the revenue that goes into the general fund comes from property taxes, O’Neill explained. For the 2017-18 year, just over half (54 percent) of the proposed operating expenditures (which total to $202.5 million) are going to public safety functions, he added.
With longtime harbor expert Marshall “Duffy” Duffield as the 2018 mayor for Newport Beach, they expect this to be the “Year of the Harbor,” O’Neill commented.
With that in mind, he looked back to the past year and the success of taking over management of the moorings from Orange County Sheriff’s Department Harbor Patrol and creating the Harbomaster program.
With phase one complete, it’s time for the next step, which includes more active code enforcement, O’Neill said.
“Moving forward, we will need to discuss as a Council whether Title 17 of our Municipal Code [which covers the harbor] needs an overhaul and whether to take a proactive or reactive code enforcement stance,” O’Neill said. “Our city has historically taking a reactive approach city-wide, which is cost effective and non-invasive.”
During the meeting O’Neill also discussed another important topic in the city: Public safety. He mentioned the plans to replace the Lido and Corona del Mar fire stations, both of which are more than 60 years old.
The CdM “fibrary” plan could be revived. A Request For Proposals for the fire station and library combo project is currently out. The RFP closes Feb. 8, followed by bids brought to City Council.
O’Neill concluded by discussing a quote from George Will that an “infielder’s mediocrity is obvious; umpires aspire to an unnoticed excellence.”
“Council Members often strive for that same unnoticed excellence because residents simply don’t need to think about us when we are doing our jobs correctly,” O’Neill said.
Inventor of the electric Duffy boat addresses his plans to improve the Newport Beach Harbor as city’s new mayor.
NEWPORT BEACH — In the efforts to track down Marshall “Duffy” Duffield, the new mayor of Newport Beach, it seemed quite ominous his reply to an email correspondence about scheduling an interview stated, “I’m around,” with his phone number attached.
The Duffy name is certainly “around” in many corners of Newport Beach Harbor, as it’s literally everywhere you turn – in the form of a “Duffy” electric boat.
As a long-time Newport Beach resident (more than 50 years) and the inventor of the electric boat bearing his name, many of us would consider Duffield the quintessential image of the dreamy Southern California yachting life.
A car insurance agent once told me we pay such catastrophic prices because “it’s a privilege to live” in Southern California. In a lot of ways, Duffield has taken such privilege and created an empire from it – him, and most other residents of California’s coast, live in a Technicolor world of scenic beauty that others across the country may never see in their lifetimes.
And Duffield remembers the earlier years of his life in Newport Beach fondly.
“Summers as a kid in the late 50s and early 60s was special,” Duffield told The Log in an email. “Growing up on the bayfront with my 14-foot dory with a 5.5 Evinrude outboard and racing my sabot was the best. I had a lot of great times waterskiing in the Back Bay too – wish that place was still open!”
Duffy is synonymous with Newport Beach. While we might think of the man who met John Wayne as a child and has been a mainstay in the boating world for decades, he’s also the man who is busy visiting his factory out in San Bernardino County the week leading up to Christmas and who has a hefty agenda to carry out that he’s already been planning and working toward.
“As a conservative I struggle with big government,” Duffield told The Log. “I’m all about doing it for less money, [with] fewer people and doing it quickly. Not everyone agrees with me on this but here’s an example. A week ago we opened a new dinghy dock next to Lido Village. It was sorely needed and is very nice, but it cost way too much money and took much too long to implement – crazy. I want to put expert experienced boaters in charge of running the harbor so we can do things at a reasonable cost and do it in a logical way.”
A mover and shaker, Duffield is a believer things shouldn’t be stalled. He feels one of the hardest parts of being a government official is working at the slower pace to get things done.
“I’m afraid I’ll run out of time to accomplish my goals because everything works so slowly in government,” Duffield said. “I’m not sure anything prepares you for this job, but my angle is simple: I’m going to just be Duffy. I plan on asking staff and the council for their advice. The council and city staff is full of high-quality, qualified people each with their own area of expertise and I want to use this resource to get through my year.”
However, Duffield still has a few initiatives mapped out.
“The Harbor Commission and the council will re-work Title 17 that spells out how the bay is run and managed. At the same time I’ll be leaning on our finance committee to find the funds for phase two of our new Harbor Operations,” Duffield said. “My goals for the harbor are to improve water quality by increasing circulation. Keeping the harbor dredged beyond the standard design depths and allowing the ocean to flow in from more than one place would be fantastic.
“We can accomplish this with smart and proven technologies. As I mentioned before we will operate and manage the harbor more efficiently,” Duffield continued.
In the past, the idea of replacing moorings in the harbor with “Duffy Docks” was tossed around and it seems like it could still be a possibility in the future.
“Multiple boat moorings are in use today with Harbor 20’s,” Duffy said. “It’s hard to justify one little 20-foot boat using a mooring where you could have stored several, so we came up with a way to make it happen. It has worked very well for more than a decade. I can’t see why we wouldn’t expand on this concept.”
One of the early wins for Duffield may be addressing the aging sea walls at Balboa.
“I am so happy that we are finally addressing this issue with a practical and affordable fix,” Duffield said. “Again, government works in mysterious ways but in this case, we are going to provide a solid answer to a very important problem. We’ve identified the parts that are severely in need of attention and are addressing them.
“We are increasing the height of the seawall that faces the storm surge and heavy winds with a cement cap averaging about 9 inches tall beginning soon,” Duffield continued.
Duffield also mentioned the possibility of opening up a second public anchorage.
“We brought [a second public anchorage] to the attention of the public at a Harbor Commission meeting many years ago,” Duffield stated. “The upper turning basin had boats on moorings in the 40s and 50s, so this is nothing new. A large amount of commercial operations are inches away from this basin. Public access is now available for local and visiting yachtsman on shore. The turning basin east of Lido Island is extremely congested on weekends and during the summer. Having two mooring fields will help create more open space on the bay.”
He also believes liveaboards can make positive contributions to the boating community.
“Liveaboards are great for the mooring fields,” Duffield said. “They keep theft down and are good ambassadors of the bay. It’s a hard life out there when you do it legally. That’s what needs to change. We must enforce the liveaboard rules.”
Of all the things he accomplished, what he’s still most proud of is keeping Duffy boats a household name in the boating industry for nearly 50 years.
“I’d have to say after thinking about it for a while that I’m proud to have kept a boat company in business for almost 50 years.” Duffield told The Log. “It doesn’t take a genius, but it does take perseverance and passion. We went through three major recessions, which takes its toll on boat builders. Selling something that nobody really needs and has limited use for is challenging to say the least. Our customers love the Duffy boating lifestyle and I’m proud to be a part of their good times on the water.”
A purveyor of the boating communities of Newport Beach’s Harbor, Duffield has much planned to improve one of the city’s greatest assets.
Duffield can be reached by email at email@example.com.
Organizers of an effort to recall Newport Beach City Councilman Scott Peotter said Monday that they will not further challenge the examination of their petition that narrowly failed to force a special election.
After the Orange County registrar of voters office determined that the Committee to Recall Scott Peotter was 106 signatures short, the group said last month that it would seek a reverification.
But after getting a quick look at the rejected signatures, recall organizer Susan Skinner said Monday that the county had appropriately disqualified some of the endorsements.
“Regardless of the registrar’s count, the signatures that we submitted are a remarkable repudiation of Peotter and his poor record on behalf of Newport Beach residents,” she said in an email. “We look forward to redoubling our efforts to defeat Peotter in November.”
Peotter, who represents District 6, which includes the Corona del Mar area, is up for reelection this year.
The committee submitted 10,696 signatures Oct. 27. The county threw out 2,357 as invalid, including 205 from signers who requested to have their endorsements revoked.
That left the group with 8,339 valid signatures, 106 shy of the needed 8,445, representing 15% of the city’s registered voters.
Recall supporters cited several issues of policy and civility in seeking Peotter’s recall. In addition to his support of the now-scuttled Museum House high-rise condominium project, the group says he insulted residents and colleagues and made poor financial decisions for the city, such as his August vote — along with four other council members — to decline the city’s share of state gas tax revenue in protest of the tax.
Peotter has said the recall targeted him for being “politically incorrect.”
The county billed the city of Newport Beach $41,871 for the signature verification, according to City Clerk Leilani Brown.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office seized the petitions used in a failed attempt to recall Newport Beach Councilman Scott Peotter over concerns regarding “potential irregularities,” the city said Friday, Jan. 12.
A search warrant to take the petitions was served on the Orange County Registrar of Voters office in Santa Ana, according to an email from City Clerk Leilani Brown to the City Council, City Manager Dave Kiff and City Attorney Aaron Harp.
No other details about the seizure, allegations or date the petitions were taken were made available.
“The search warrant was served under seal and we have not received a copy of the search warrant,” Brown’s email said. “I am in contact with the DA’s office and hope to receive more information next week. I will let you know as soon as I have more information.”
District attorney spokeswoman Michelle Van Der Linden did not immediately return calls for comment.
That left 8,339 valid signatures, 106 short of the required 15 percent threshold of registered voters in the city.
Peotter has called the effort against him dishonest, adding that the seizure of petitions “just adds to the discrediting of the recallers.”
Phil Greer, the recall committee’s attorney, said Friday he doesn’t think anyone from the committee acted improperly.
“My understanding is that nobody from the volunteer committee is involved [in the irregularities] or anything of that nature,” he said.
Recall committee organizer Susan Skinner said a third-party circulator may have forged signatures.
“Apparently the warrant is sealed, but I understand that one of the paid petitioners allegedly forged signatures,” Skinner said. “This is a big, bad violation of election law and not a smart thing to do. It was not one of our volunteers.”
Forging petition signatures is a misdemeanor, according to the California election code.
Peotter has maintained that the effort to unseat him is because of his politically incorrect personality.
Recall supporters cited his support for the failed Museum House high-rise project, what they call poor financial decisions, his vote to decline the city’s share of extra gas tax revenue in a protest of the controversial tax hike and his behavior – they said he insulted residents and colleagues.