The Newport Beach City Council could consider censuring a member who included the city seal in an email blast that criticized the legalization of same-sex marriage.
In a two-hour hearing, part of a special meeting called Monday for Tuesday, the Council voted 4-3 to pass a resolution that declares the city’s support for “diversity, equality and inclusiveness.” The resolution also makes sure that Council members’ private statements aren’t construed as official city policies.
Council members Scott Peotter, Duffy Duffield and Kevin Muldoon opposed, mostly because of wording that included Peotter’s name in the resolution, and because they thought it was difficult for a Council member making a comment to control how the public construes it.
Mayor Ed Selich called the special meeting in response to an email that Councilman Scott Peotter of Corona del Mar sent on July 6. The email included an image of the city seal and criticized a recent Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage.
The email outraged many residents as well as members of the LBGT community, who vowed to attend tonight’s Council meeting to ask for Peotter to apologize or resign; read our earlier stories here and here.
More than 30 people spoke at the meeting, including a few who supported Peotter’s right to free speech.
But most of the speakers were critical.
“You should be recalled before you embarrass us all,” said Balboa Island resident Jeff Herdman, who listed a series of Peotter’s alleged municipal code violations, which Herdman has reported to county and state authorities; read our story here.
“How dare you judge from your heterosexual pedestal,” said Michelle Rouie. “I truly am so offended. You owe everyone an apology.”
One man spoke, introducing his husband in the audience, suggesting that Peotter probably doesn’t know a lot of gay people who live in Newport Beach.
“We’re really very ordinary people,” Scott Westerfield said. “When you make statements, I want you to think of me.”
Others, describing themselves as advocates and social workers who work with LGBT families and youths, offered training to the City Council. One man, Jeff LeTourneau, said he’d had problems with Peotter’s opinions about homosexuality since the early 1980s.
After the public hearing, Peotter said he stood by his opinions about same-sex marriage, which he said are against his religious beliefs, but said he was not a bigot or homophobic. He also said he had not been using the city seal illegally, and he apologized by saying, “I never had any kind of intention to hurt anyone…Never was I intending to be hurtful.”
One member of the audience yelled “Resign!” and Peotter asked that he be given the same chance to speak that the audience enjoyed.
Councilman Keith Curry said the email could create a hostile work environment for gay city employees, and it could hurt the local economy if it drives away tourists or shoppers.
“It’s a danger to our economy,” he said. “This was a misuse of authority.”
Curry proposed adopting the resolution on the agenda, as well as bringing back a motion to censure Peotter, to send the misuse of the city seal accusations to the Orange County District Attorney’s office for review, and to bring back a revised municipal code that closed any loopholes on using the city seal.
The city attorney, however, said that only the resolution on the agenda had been properly noticed, so no action could be taken on Curry’s three other proposals in his motion.
Curry later asked that those three items be brought back to the Council in the future.
In 2003, the City Council censured City Councilman Richard Nichols of Corona del Mar for comments he made disparaging Mexicans.
The Council Chambers were packed with more than 100 people, most of whom left after the special meeting concluded. Before the meeting, someone waving a rainbow flag in front of the Civic Center drew honks from passing cars.