Business Relationship Between Newport Mayor, Councilman Raises Questions

Last month, Newport Beach activist Susan Skinner filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission alleging that business ties between the mayor and Councilman Scott Peotter constituted a possible conflict of interest. Today, the nature of their relationship is starting to become a bit clearer.

From the Daily Pilot:

A business linked to Newport Beach Mayor Marshall “Duffy” Duffield paid his City Council colleague Scott Peotter to help convert part of Duffield’s boat manufacturing facility in San Bernardino County to a medical marijuana cultivation or distribution hub, records show.

Peotter made at least $10,000 from DC Developments, a Duffield-associated company, according to Peotter’s state-required statement of economic interest forms.

A string of corporations that financially tie the two together appears to answer a question — has Peotter ever worked for Duffield? — that has dogged them for weeks as they seek reelection in November.

Records list Duffield as a “manager/member” of DC Developments, as well as Muskrat Consultants — one of 16 licensed marijuana distribution facilities in Adelanto, California. According to a city staff report for the Planning Commission meeting, Peotter asked for permission to subdivide the 4.7-acre Muskrat Avenue parcel into three lots. He said Duffield planned to apply for a cannabis cultivation permit on the site.

The city’s charter doesn’t specifically address members of the council employing one another. But other provisions of municipal and state law call the legality of the arrangement into question. City Attorney Aaron Harp refused to comment pending his review of the records. He had previously dismissed Ms. Skinner’s allegations as ‘based on rumor.’

Former City Councilman Keith Curry has been far more blunt. He notes that Duffield and Peotter both voted to ban a medical marijuana cultivation, distribution, and processing facility in Newport Beach three years ago — a decision he concurred with.

“Now we find out that not only are they in business together, they’re in a pot business together.”

Curry said a business relationship between the two would be “unacceptable” and called on them to provide answers to the public immediately.

Last week, Duffield heeded those calls, confirming in a statement to the Daily Pilot that he had enlisted Peotter to help him divide the Adelanto property and acquire a cannabis distribution permit in order to make it more attractive for resale.

“As a property owner, I am trying to maximize the value to sell the land, not grow pot,” Duffield insisted. “I am actively manufacturing electric boats at the plant and there is no room to be growing pot.”

Duffield, however, did not address the elephant in the room — whether his arrangement with Peotter poses a conflict. According to the Daily Pilot, requests for follow-up went unanswered.