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Volume 4, Issue 66  |  August 16, 2019


Letter to the Editor:

Herdman deserves an appointment to campaign finance reform

We are shocked that Mayor Diane Dixon plans to create an election reform committee and appoint two fellow Team Newport council members to it but not Jeff Herdman. Campaign finance reform was part of the platform that got Councilman Herdman elected. He was on the original committee formed in 2017 (which never met), and he’s the one who asked for it to be reinstated.   

It was also Herdman who called out the 44 campaign finance violations that appear to have been committed in 2014 by Team Newport members Dixon, Duffy, Peotter and Muldoon, and their campaign consultant and treasurer. They are currently negotiating a settlement with the FPPC. 

Will O’Neill and Brad Avery are from the second wave of Team Newport and use the same consultant and treasurer. They’ve been appointed to oversee campaign finance reform despite these ties, and even though they have never, to our knowledge, expressed any interest in the issue. Why doesn’t one of them step aside and give his seat to Herdman, who’s been talking to the community about this since 2014?

The real concern for us is that Team Newport controls five of seven council seats (it was six until Joy Brenner beat Peotter last year) and can use that majority to deny those who have challenged them the chance to serve on committees that will impact future elections. This campaign finance reform committee is only one example. They can also keep passing the mayor and mayor pro tem titles around amongst themselves, which is what they’ve been doing since 2015. This gives them great power over the agenda as well as commissions and committees. If this game of musical chairs doesn’t stop, long-term residents who want to serve on the council merely to give back to the community, like Jeff Herdman, may just become too disgusted to run for office. 

Maybe it’s time for Newport to directly elect its mayor. Or perhaps residents simply need to rise up and demand to see a new face in the mayor’s seat next year – someone who’s not part of any team and will appoint fellow council members to committees based on their knowledge and their passion rather than political alliances.

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