In an effort to oust Newport Beach City Councilman Scott Peotter, a group of opponents served him a notice of recall during a council meeting this week.
Paul Blank, 30-year resident of Corona del Mar and Harbor Commission chairman, led the charge Tuesday night during the public comment period. Citizens in CdM are not being properly represented, Blank argued.
“When leaders don’t listen to their constituents, or treat them fairly and with respect, those constituents can easily turn into activists,” Blank said. “Tonight, I have become an activist.”
Proponents have 160 days to obtain signatures from at least 15 percent of Newport Beach registered voters, approximately 8,500 people. Peotter is allowed a 200 word response.
Blank was joined by fellow locals Lynn Swain of Big Canyon and Lori Morris of Balboa Peninsula.
For their reasoning, the group cited Peotter’s support of the Museum House residential tower project and other development in Newport Beach, not conducting himself in a civil manner, not respecting the law, and insulting his colleagues, constituents, and other officials, among other issues.
“It is time for you to go,” Morris said. She encouraged him to save the effort and expense of a recall and resign.
Peotter came down from the dais to take the paperwork and shake the hands of his opponents.
He has his own perspective on the issues raised, Peotter replied after public comment closed.
“And even if there is disagreement, which obviously you can’t please everybody, that’s what elections are for,” Peotter said, “You air out your issues and put it before the voters and let the voters decide.”
Peotter said the effort to recall him is based on his political incorrectness, not that he broke a law or committed an impeachable offense.
The three residents presenting the recall notice disagreed.
Swain said she is supporting the recall because of the way Peotter ignored her neighborhood and insulted the residents who opposed the Museum House project. His efforts to “undermine” the petition process attempted to trample their constitutional rights, she added.
“No one, especially our elected representatives, is above the law,” Swain said.
It is not about his beliefs, politics or free speech, opponents emphasized.
“It’s about the standards of conduct we expect of our elected officials,” Blank said.
The first-term councilman has been disrespectful while conducting public business, insulted his colleagues, called his constituents liars, and disparaged dedicated staff, Blank explained. He’s insulted staff and leaders at other agencies while representing Newport Beach, Blank claimed.
He has also “stands in stark contrast” with the community’s general viewpoint on development. Peotter has opposed parks, libraries, fire stations “and the people who use them,” and much needed enhancements on the peninsula, while supporting high-rise, high-density, traffic-inducing development, the group argued.
Peotter has also often disregarded the concerns of residents, they added, citing that he sided with the bars on the peninsula at the expense of the homeowners and moved the fire rings without regard on the impact to the local residents.
“The activist in me is now working to replace this man as my representative at the earliest possible opportunity,” Blank said.
In information circulated by the group behind the recall, the residents call Peotter “an embarrassment to our community and a failure as our city councilman.”
Resident Mike Glenn also stepped up to the microphone during the public comment period, but to support Peotter – although they may not all agree on every decision. Glenn thanked the “majority” of the council members and specified Peotter, who he said was being attacked for his views.
Mayor Pro Tem Marshall “Duffy” Duffield also supported Peotter and said he was “aghast” at the recall effort. Duffield was part of the self-dubbed “Team Newport” slate of council candidates in 2014, along with Peotter.
“Scott Peotter has done everything Team Newport represented,” Duffield said. “He went right to work.”
Peotter has worked to get wood back in the fire rings, trying to save money for the city, and “lowering the dock tax,” Duffield noted. A lot of his cost cutting decisions are fueled by the price tag of the new city hall, he added.
In a prepared statement by Save Free Speech in Newport Beach, a newly created committee opposed to the recall effort, chairman Robert Rush said Peotter is a leader in cleaning up the mess in the city and protecting residents.
The 2014 “Team Newport” slate was elected to bring “transparency and sunlight to government,” Rush wrote. Peotter is not afraid to speak his mind, including “calling out” government excess, he added.
“Scott (Peotter) and I often disagree on issues and he isn’t always politically correct, but he always fights for us,” Rush said in the press release.
The Museum House was a good project and the opponents sold it with “fake facts,” Duffield added Tuesday.
“You might as well just impeach me too,” because he supported it as well, Duffield said.
He was emotional and shaken about it, he added.
“At the end of the day, it’s just awful, a man that works so hard…to just throw these things at him,” Duffield concluded. “This is awful, just awful.”
Another Team Newport member, Mayor Kevin Muldoon, said he had some concerns about the recall effort regarding the current state of the budget.
“We are having to make decisions that we don’t want to make out of concern for the budget,” Muldoon said.
Peotter claimed a recall election either this fall or possibly next spring would cost about $500,000. Since he’s up for re-election in 2018, it seems to be a waste of taxpayer resources, Peotter said.
In February, city staff estimated a stand-alone special election would cost approximately $300,000 when they looked into the issue for the Museum House project.
In a recent newsletter, Peotter wrote that “an element of Newport Beach politics evidently doesn’t like the fact that I am keeping my campaign promises so they are starting a recall attempt.”
Peotter said Tuesday most of the issues raised by his opponents were talked about during his 2014 campaign.
“None of these should be a surprise,” he said.
Before getting elected to City Council, he was on the Planning Commission for 12 years and his record is strong and clear, Peotter said.
“I have no problem facing the voters over any of my votes,” Peotter said. “I’m glad to defend them.”