The latest developments in the recall effort of Newport Beach City Councilman Scott Peotter – and the opposition fighting it – includes fundraisers, spreading the word, setting up informational booths around town, and a complaint filed with a state board.
Resident Susan Skinner filed a complaint against Peotter with the California Fair Political Practices Commission last week.
She raised several concerns in June 1 letter, including no reported income during his four years on the Planning Commission, receiving between $10,000 and $100,000 in income from Capitol Ministries in 2015 when he was on the city council, and his real property interest in Irvine listed on city forms in 2015 and 2016 at an address where no property is located.
The Commission will respond within two weeks with a decision on how they will proceed. A sworn complaint found to have merit will be assigned to staff for a full investigation.
The Committee to Recall Scott Peotter group has until the end of October to collect at least 8,500 signatures. If successful, a special election could take place as early or January or as late as May 2018, just five to nine months before the regular city council election for Newport Beach.
Proponents of the recall cite several reasons for their effort, including that the community is not being appropriately represented and his support of the Museum House tower condominium project, among other development. They claim Peotter doesn’t listen to constituents or treat them fairly and doesn’t regard them, or the law, with respect.
A main complaint of the group’s is his support of the Museum House condominium tower and, later, his effort to include the extensive environmental analysis and other supporting documents with the petition against the project, which totaled about 1,100 pages.
“I think he really cooked his goose on Museum House and calling SPON [Still Protecting Our Newport community group] liars,” said Recall Committee Spokeswoman Lynn Swain. “His mouth has gotten him in a lot of trouble.”
But that’s not really the case, according to Peotter.
“This whole thing is new to me,” Peotter said. “Usually recalls are reserved for malfeasance…Whereas for me people just have a difference of opinion.”
Peotter said the effort to recall him is based on his political incorrectness, not that he broke a law or committed an impeachable offense. There are no legitimate reasons for a recall, he pointed out.
“These are issue that should be hashed out during a regular election, not special recall election,” Peotter said.
He’s disappointed that the group wants to spend taxpayer dollars for a “re-do” of the 2014 election that he won. This is a waste of time and money, Peotter said.
A major point of contention is how much a special election for a recall could potentially cost: The recall committee contends that it would be around $300,000 while Peotter and his supporters estimate it would be higher, around $500,000.
“According to the county’s estimate, if the city had a stand-alone special election, it could cost over $300,000,” Newport Beach City Clerk Leilani Brown confirmed. “There are a lot of variables involved in the cost.”
Some have encouraged Peotter to save the effort and expense of a recall and resign.
“He would save face,” by resigning, Swain said.
Recall proponents also say Peotter “doesn’t obey the law,” pointing out the violation of city contribution limits during his 2014 campaign.
“That is a pretty serious offense,” Swain said.
She added that he has used the city seal inappropriately (referring to his 2015 newsletter opposing gay marriage that used the seal in the banner) and revealed confidential city information (referring to a taped speech published online that he gave to the Costa Mesa Tea Party in 2015 where he talked about closed-session deliberations).
But the most prominent and important issue facing the city is long term debt, in the form of pensions and civic center debt, Peotter explained.
“I didn’t get us in debt but I’m part of the council that has to get us out of that debt,” he noted. “But that’s not on the recall group’s radar… and yet it’s the most important issue in the city.”
That is an issue he has been working on since he was elected, Peotter said.
“That’s what I ran on in 2014 and I think we’ve made good progress on that,” Peotter said. “I will continue to represent the taxpayers of the community and fight for them.”
It will likely continue to be the most important issue in the next campaign season, he added.
“I’d love to be dealing with the important issues of the city instead of recall issues,” Peotter said. “It’s a diversion.”
Currently, both sides of the effort are working to raise money and get the word out.
Any funding efforts to fight the recall will roll into re-election, Peotter confirmed. A lot of people are coming out and endorsing Peotter and standing against the recall, Peotter said.
Another group was recently created, but in support of Peotter: Save Free Speech in Newport, chaired by local Bob Rush.
“Councilman Scott Peotter is a leader in cleaning the mess up and protecting residents,” Rush wrote in a letter to the Indy recently. “His political opponents have targeted him for a recall because they want to return to the days of overspending on pet projects.”
But for the residents behind the recall effort, it’s about that Peotter doesn’t act for “the good of the people,” Swain opined.
The opposition to the recall effort is trying to shift focus away from Peotter and his record and “attack residents,” Swain said, “It’s a pathetic effort.”
On their side, the response from residents has been better than they anticipated, she said. As of Wednesday morning the group had collected “pretty darn close” to 1,000 signatures, Swain estimated.
About 140 volunteers have been rotating sitting at booths set up at Oasis Senior Center in Corona del Mar and the Newport Beach Public Library raising their concerns to locals. They are also waiting for approval from The Irvine Company to set up on TIC shopping center properties.
The next steps for the group are to get volunteers at more locations around town and target upcoming events.
As far as fundraising is concerned, they are about halfway to their goal of $50,000, Swain confirmed.
“I think we’re taking our city back,” Swain said. “We’ve got this.”