Conflict of Interest with Museum House Condos

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Dave Ellis, who served as campaign manager for many of the current Newport Beach City Council, has been retained to shepherd The Museum House condo tower in Newport Center through to a successful approval by the City Council.

Or at least I think he has been retained to do so.

Despite an obvious need for the public to know who may be influencing their elected representatives, there is no way for an average citizen to find out.

Because lobbyists in Newport Beach are not required to register as lobbyists nor disclose what projects they are working on, there is no public forum to access to obtain this information.

Thus, despite multiple reliable sources telling me that Dave Ellis is lobbying for The Museum House, I cannot confirm it.

I communicated with City Attorney Aaron Harp, who was also not aware of any such relationship despite what would seem to be a conflict of interest for the Councilpersons that he advises. I say “seem to be,” because Aaron noted that having Dave Ellis lobby the council for The Museum House would not be a conflict of interest under current laws.

A call to the Fair Political Practice Commission (FPPC) revealed the jaw dropping information that Aaron Harp is right. Despite having a close professional relationship with multiple council members and even apparently being on retainer by Councilmen Peotter and Muldoon (who made payments worth many thousands of dollars to Ellis in 2015, well after the election), Dave Ellis is free to lobby the City Council on behalf of his clients without restriction.

At a time when trust in our elected representatives is so profoundly challenged, it behooves our City Council to consider Keith Curry’s proposal to require lobbyists to register with the city and establish a greater degree of transparency regarding the decision making process.

Without that transparency, how can I believe anything except that Dave Ellis has won another victory for his clients if the City Council approves The Museum House?

Susan Skinner

Newport Beach

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