Letter to the Editor: We Need Open and Transparent Government on Newport Beach

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It is widely believed that Councilmember Peotter has been retained by Mayor Duffield to assist in the relocation of some of Duffield’s boat manufacturing facilities to Utah.

The refusal of Duffield and Peotter to answer the simple question “Does Peotter work for Duffield?” is very troubling.

Duffield refuses to voluntarily answer the question, and Peotter calls it “rumor.”

This is not some political “gotcha” issue. Residents have a right to know if Peotter’s vote can be influenced by compensation Duffield pays to Peotter, or affect a vote over resource allocation between Duffield’s and Peotter’s districts, or is just plain illegal.

Duffield is required to recuse himself on most harbor issues. However, Peotter votes on these issues, some of which may financially benefit Duffield. Is this allowable under conflict of interest laws? Should Peotter also be recusing himself because Duffield is a source of income to Peotter?

What about the City Council’s duty to police itself?

Both Peotter and Duffield are already the subject of multiple complaints regarding campaign law and conflict of interest violations, none of which the Council has directed the City Attorney to review. Yet again Council shirks its duty, by not directing the City Attorney to look into this employment issue. How long will Council ignore its duty, as ethical issues pile up with Duffield and Peotter? This is politics at its worst, and confirms voter skepticism about the ethics of government officials.

What about the City Attorney’s independent duty to assure that Council is acting lawfully? When asked, the city attorney reportedly said “trying to find answers to these type of issues is not possible given the ethical rules related to the performance of your duties.”

Really? This “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude is disingenuous and disrespects his office as well as the citizens of Newport Beach.

I think it is entirely possible to find the truth. Duffield and Peotter should be asked directly, under oath if necessary, so City business can be conducted in the open without fear of conflicts of interest. And then, depending on the answers, Councilmembers should conduct themselves in a lawful, transparent way without even the appearance of a conflict.

Open and transparent government in Newport will not begin until these kinds of egregious cover ups are stopped.

 

Mike Henn

Former Mayor, Newport Beach

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