February 2018.


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

Mayor’s Dinner Highlights ‘Year of the Harbor’

Newport Beach Mayor Marshall “Duffy” Duffield illustrated why 2018 will be the “Year of the Harbor” during an event last week.

Duffield gave a “State of the City” speech at Speak Up Newport’s 37th Annual Mayor’s Dinner on Feb. 2. About 450 people attended the event at Marriott Hotel & Spa in Newport Center.

His main harbor-related talking points were the city taking over management of moorings in the harbor, the harbormaster program, and dredging.

A variety of users crowd the harbor on any given weekend during the busy season. They are now taking more of a “park ranger” approach, he explained. Friendly code enforcement so everyone can safely enjoy the harbor.

“We found many issues going on out there that need correction and we are in the process of making it happen,” Duffield said. “After all, the harbor is a fun place.”

Phase two of the harbormaster program will start after the city reworks Title 17, the city regulations for the harbor or the “bible for the bay.” He also noted that they are looking into getting a fire boat.

Duffield talked about replenishing the beaches and increasing water flow through dredging.

He suggested a pipe be installed under Balboa Blvd., to empty out into the ocean. When not dredging, it could bring ocean water back into the harbor, which would increase circulation.

The public works department is working on the feasibility of the idea. It could be accomplished within five to six years, he added.

“In the meantime, we still have 700,000 cubic yards of sediment that needs to be removed,” to get the harbor’s ideal depth, Duffield said.

They are actively pursuing funds from the Army Corps of Engineers for a major dredging project, he noted. Smaller projects on an annual basis are challenging, but doable, Duffield added.

“We just can’t give up,” he said.

The night was full of amusing moments as well.

Newport Beach Mayor Marshall “Duffy” Duffield talks with residents after the event.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

Duffield, who led the 2014 slate of candidates self-dubbed “Team Newport,” joked that the “real” Team Newport is city staff. He expressed gratitude for a number of employees, including City Manager Dave Kiff, who Duffield said somehow manages to keep all seven Council members happy.

In classic “Duffy” style, he joked that his speech for the night was prepared by Team Newport “boss” Bob McCaffrey and political consultant Dave Ellis. As the crowd cheered and laughed, Duffield added that he “can’t write a speech.”

There were serious moments as well, as Duffield touched on a number of issues facing the city.

“The financial state of our city is healthy and in good hands,” Duffield said.

Once again, revenues are strong and Newport Beach ended the year with a surplus, he pointed out. Although, the trend of people buying online, instead of locally, has had an impact on the city’s revenue from sales tax.

“So the city doesn’t get much of a share anymore,” Duffield said.

He encouraged the audience to buy from Newport Beach shops.

Duffield also revisited an idea he’s mentioned previously: Evaluating the actual usage of development projects, particularly on the waterfront or projects that replace marine-related businesses.

“Is it working as designed? Or is it failing to live up to its intentions?” he questioned.

He suggested requiring developers to produce a “report card” on projects.

He also mentioned that Toshiba is pulling out as title sponsor of the annual golf tournament held in Newport Beach.

Former mayor Ed Selich (right) was honored with the annual SUNshine Award during the event. Fellow former mayor and SUN board member, Rush Hill, presented the award.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

The Toshiba Classic raises more than $1 million annually for Hoag Hospital Foundation and other charities, and provides exceptional national press coverage for the city, Duffield noted.

The city doesn’t contribute to the event, which Duffield said “has to change.” Although last year Council members agreed to up to $15,000 in fee waivers for the 2018 tournament.

Duffield also spoke about the city‘s “practical and affordable” approach to fixing or update the seawalls, the unfunded pension, John Wayne Airport, and more. He gave a personal account about his history in Newport, learning to sail, and developing the Duffy electric boat.

Also during the event, SUN officials handed out the annual SUNshine Award to former mayor Ed Selich.

The award recognizes the “long-term positive impact on the community” of the recipient. Selich has helped “shape numerous elements of our quality life,” said fellow former mayor, Rush Hill, who presented the award. Selich served on many study groups, commissions, committees, and a record number of years on City Council.

“It‘s really been an honor and a pleasure to give back to the community,” Selich said. “I love this town.”

For more information, visit speakupnewport.com

Former mayors laugh and chat as they pose for a photo during the event (left to right): (top row) Don Webb, Tod Ridgeway, John Heffernan, Kevin Muldoon, Steve Rosansky, Ed Selich, and Mike Henn; (bottom row) John Cox, John Noyes, Evelyn Hart, Nancy Gardner, Rush Hill, Tom Edwards, and Clarence Turner.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

The crowd cheers as current Newport Beach Mayor Marshall “Duffy” Duffield walks to the stage to give his speech.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

Former mayors Evelyn Hart (left) and Nancy Gardner laugh and chat as they sit down for a group photo of past mayors during the event on Feb. 2.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

Former mayor shake hands, laugh and chat as they pose for a group photo at the event.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

SUN board member and city Finance Committee member Joe Stapleton (left) helps former mayor and fellow SUN board member, Rush Hill to the stage.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

Current Newport Beach Mayor Marshall “Duffy” Duffield gives his “State of the City” address at Speak Up Newport’s 37th Annual Mayor’s Dinner on Feb. 2.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©


Newport Beach Mayor Marshall “Duffy” Duffield’s State of the City speech Friday night focused on how he’d like to improve the harbor.

On waterfront development, he suggested a report card-style assessment to see if projects are living up to their stated intentions.

For example, zoning tweaks on the Rhine Channel allowed mixed uses, but “what resulted was simply an inexpensive way to build a house on the bay,” Duffield told the audience at the Marriott Hotel & Spa in Newport Center.

“Had we gone back and studied those developments, we would have seen that it wasn’t working as it was intended,” he said. “The commercial element on the first floor was simply a ruse for having a residence above.”

The ground-floor businesses have little parking and street exposure, leading to unsuccessful ventures, he said.

He also cast a critical eye on the Vue condominium-retail project on Balboa Boulevard near the Newport Pier, saying it displaced a boat yard, a boat sales lot and five other marine businesses.

Duffield praised sea wall improvements being added around Balboa Island and the city’s new in-house harbor operations department and said he has longer-term plans for a new fireboat and less-expensive, more efficient dredging.

In off-the-water issues, he committed to protecting residents from noise and pollution from nearby John Wayne Airport and suggested a city charter amendment to allow residents’ input on major taxpayer-funded debt obligations, like the $140-million Civic Center complexthat was completed in 2013.

“Voters should have been able to vote on the Civic Center certificates of participation [a financial instrument for issuing bonds] that funded the project,” he said. “Maybe voters would have supported it, but they never had the chance. That should change.”

In 2016, the City Council tabled a proposal to put a measure on the ballot asking voters whether they want to require public approval before the city could use a certificate of participation or lease revenue bond greater than $10 million.

Ever the waterman, Duffield closed his speech by telling the origin story of his Duffy electric boats.

Twitter: @Daily_PilotHD


Critics of Newport Beach City Councilman Scott Peotter raised close to $100,000 and racked up more than $130,000 in bills in their unsuccessful attempt to recall him last year, spending more than $2.50 for every dollar Peotter and his supporters spent in his defense.

Campaign statements filed last month detailing financial activity through December show that the Committee to Recall Scott Peotter collected $98,270 during the roughly five-month recall effort, mostly in cash donations from individuals. The biggest chunk of contributions — about $43,000 — happened in the July-to-September reporting period. Recall organizers began collecting petition signatures in early June and dropped off the petitions to the city on Oct. 27.

The top five recall donors overall were:

  • Marilyn Brewer, former California assemblywoman: $10,625;
  • Petros for City Council, the campaign committee for former Newport Beach councilman Tony Petros: $9,500;
  • Paul Blank, Newport Beach harbor commissioner and a vice president of Urban Decay cosmetics: $8,179;
  • Susan Skinner, a local activist and neurologist: $7,309;
  • Sharon Wohl, homemaker: $4,000.

Other contributors included three former Newport Beach mayors — Mike Henn ($3,000), Rush Hill ($1,500) and Keith Curry ($1,000) — and two residents who plan to challenge Peotter for his District 6 council seat when he is up for reelection in November.

Mike Toerge, a former planning commissioner who lost to Peotter in the 2014 race for the seat, gave $5,000 (a $1,000 contribution and a $4,000 loan). Corona del Mar resident Joy Brenner gave $300.

The recall committee tallied $132,634 in paid and unpaid bills.

Most of the expenses were for petition circulation. Records show the committee made 13 payments last year to Calabasas-based PCI Consultants Inc. totaling $66,734. As of the time of filing, the committee owed the petition-management firm an additional $41,863.

Pro-Peotter funding

Meanwhile, the pro-Peotter camp raised a total of about $45,000 through two committees.

Newport Beach Residents Against Recalling Councilman Peotter raised $27,312. Records show that only $312 of that was raised in the recall effort’s final weeks.

Fieldstead & Co., an Irvine-based philanthropy run by savings and loan heir Howard Ahmanson Jr. and his wife, Roberta, contributed $15,000 in cash and $2,312 worth of campaign consulting, almost entirely in the July-to-September period.

The Newport Beach Residents group spent $32,637, largely on campaign literature, mailers and automated phone calls.

The Committee to Oppose the Recall of Scott Peotter was run by Peotter himself to focus on a counter-petition for people to withdraw their signatures from the recall petition. It spent all $17,502 that it raised and closed out the campaign with no debts.

The committee received $5,000 in cash. The rest of the contributions were earmarked for petition services funded by the Scott Peotter for City Council 2018 committee.

The Orange County registrar of voters office announced in December that it had validated 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.

In January, the county district attorney’s office seized the recall petitions from the registrar’s office in Santa Ana over concerns about “potential irregularities.”

The search warrant affidavit is sealed, so specific allegations are unavailable.

Recall organizers have suggested that a paid third-party petition circulator may have forged signatures.

Twitter: @Daily_PilotHD