Letter to the Editor: Playing Hide and Seek With the Truth

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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 August 29th West Newport Candidate Forum, I asked my opponent, Mayor Marshall Duffield, if he’d ever employed Councilman Scott Peotter during their time on the Newport Beach City Council.

Up until this week, the two have refused to answer this question, with Peotter calling allegations of their working relationship “rumors” and Duffield noticeably absent from subsequent candidate forums.

Now it has come out in the LA Times 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 press, 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. He 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.”

Skinner has since filed a complaint against Duffy with the Fair Political Practices Commission, which the Daily Pilot says is the “the third resident-initiated FPPC complaint against Duffield and Peotter in less than six months.”

The question remains: Did Harp know about this business relationship or not? His comments don’t add up.

We now know these two worked on this cannabis project in 2017.

I felt it was important to put the issue 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.

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. I’m sure investigations moving forward will reveal more.

Sadly, their non-disclosure in this situation speaks to a fundamental problem of transparency and conflict of interest issues within this Council. They’ve done a disservice to the people who elected them.

This whole employment controversy could have been a non-issue if they’d handled themselves differently. Their avoidance behavior raises many questions.

Knowing their business relationship was entering unprecedented unchartered legal 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?

It’s been my experience when folks have nothing to hide they are more than willing to be forthcoming and put controversy to rest. Unfortunately, that 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 Council Member were playing hide and seek with the truth. It’s time to restore confidence, openness and honesty to City Council, and that’s why I’m running for office.

 

Tim Stoaks

City Council Candidate for District 3

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