The Toll Roads agency has linked its website to the Newport City Councilor campaign webpage

Newport Beach City Councilor Scott Peotter and the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) violated state law by hyperlinking Peotter’s campaign webpage to the agency’s website, according to Bob Stern , co-author of the 1974 California Political Reform Act.

“It is a violation of the law, but it is not a major violation of the law,” Stern said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “Basically, you can’t use government resources to move a campaign forward and they (Peotter) use government resources to help them with their campaign. “

Stern continued, “So basically as soon as you (Voice of OC) contact them or write the story down and they don’t take it down, then that’s a problem.”

Immediately after the Voice of OC called the TCA with questions, the hyperlink to Peotter’s campaign website, which was featured in his photo on the TCA Board Member Bios page, showed up. been replaced by his biography on the Newport Beach City Council webpage.

A screenshot of the transport corridor agency board members with links to their profiles below the photographs. Taken on August 14, 2018.

“It was an oversight and these are our apologies,” TCA spokeswoman Sarah King said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “Our policy is to create hyperlinks to their city council profiles… Our team is now going through all hyperlinks to make sure there are no broken links and to make sure there are no broken links. is nothing inaccurate. “

The TCA manages the toll roads in southern Orange County. No other hyperlink under the names of elected officials on the agency’s website led people to a campaign or personal website. Peotter’s campaign webpage, which Voice of OC captured in a screenshot before it was deleted, had a big “donate” button on the right side.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a hyperlink as “an electronic link providing direct access from one distinctly marked place in a hypertext or hypermedia document to another in the same or a different document”. Hypertext, according to the dictionary, is “a database format in which information relating to that displayed on a screen can be accessed directly from the screen.”

Voice of OC’s open government consultant Terry Francke said if TCA allowed Peotter and other board members to hyperlink to campaign websites on the agency’s webpage, this could have been a legal liability for the toll agency.

“The rationale would be that allowing members of the Joint Powers Authority (JPA) to essentially post a campaign notice board on the JPA site, could risk liability for the use of public funds for private campaigning purposes. “Francke said on a Tuesday. telephone interview. “I think they could at least risk legal action against the agency to get a court order directing it to stop providing free space for what is essentially a partisan political message.”

Peotter did not respond to calls for comment.

A screenshot showing the details of Newport Beach Councilman Scott Peotter’s link to his campaign website. Taken on August 14, 2018.

Stern said Peotter’s hyperlink does not use a large amount of taxpayer money, but it violates the principle of the law.

“We’re talking pennies or a few dollars when we talk about the amount of resources used… it’s the principle more than the amount,” Stern said.

California Law States, “It is illegal for any elected national or local official, including any state or local representative, employee or consultant, to use or permit others to use public resources for campaign activity, or for personal or other purposes that are not permitted by law. ”

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC reporter who covers southern Orange County and Fullerton. You can reach him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio

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