OCEANSIDE — Mayor Peter Weiss brought a startling end to 2020’s first City Council meeting Jan. 8 when he accused petitioners who gathered signatures against the North River Farms development project of forging his name.
What the mayor didn’t know, however, is two people living in Oceanside go by the name Peter Weiss. It was Peter Weiss the realtor agent, not the mayor, who signed the petition, according to City Clerk Zeb Navarro.
On Dec. 20, 2019, the City Clerk’s office conducted the prima facie count of a petition to place a referendum against the controversial North River Farms project on the November ballot. Approximately 12,500 signatures were submitted, though the clerk’s office counted only until they reached the required 9,609 signatures.
The clerk’s office then stored the petition in a closed, locked room, Navarro said via email, until taking the petition to the Office of the Registrar of Voters. Only Navarro and one other office employee had access to this room, he said.
Now that the Registrar of Voters has the petition, it is up to them to determine if there are enough verified signatures.
Following the council’s adoption of an ordinance that would place a three-term limit on the mayor and council members with voter approval in November, Weiss accused referendum petitioners, several of whom were present at the meeting, of forging his signature.
“You come here and talk about openness and transparency and trusting the government, yet I’ve become aware that someone forged my signature,” Weiss said at the Jan. 8 council meeting.
After the mayor accused petitioners of forgery, Navarro conducted an investigation into the matter. He found no evidence of forgery.
“I received a written communication from an individual by the name of Peter Weiss, a realtor and resident of Oceanside, stating that he had indeed signed the petition,” Navarro said via email. “Mr. Weiss gave me permission to release this information.”
Peter Weiss, the real estate agent, also confirmed with The Coast News that he had indeed signed the petition. He wasn’t sure if Mayor Peter Weiss knew that he existed prior to the Jan. 8 accusation.
Navarro said any further investigation is within the “sole responsibility” of the Registrar of Voters.
Navarro also conducted what he said was a “thorough investigation” into allegations of a potential breach of his office’s strict confidentiality requirements.
“Let me assure the public, the Voters of Oceanside, that I am taking the allegations of a potential breach by individual(s) within my office very seriously,” Navarro said via email. “While I am unable to comment on personnel matters, I wish to assure the public that any violations will be seriously addressed and dealt with.”
The referendum that would potentially overturn the council’s approval of the controversial North River Farms development project in South Morro Hills is slated for the Nov. 3 election ballot, along with a measure asking for voter approval of a three-term limit on council members and the mayor.
If passed, the term limit measure would potentially allow someone to be a council member for as long as 12 years (three terms) and then spend another 12 as mayor if elected.
For resident Jane Marshall, allowing the potential for someone to be in office for 24 years negates the purpose of term limits. She wanted two-term limits instead.
“Four or 16 years seems more reasonable than 24 years,” Marshall said.
Marshall also wants the council to consider developing a Code of Ethics ordinance which she said would improve transparency, avoid council avoid conflicts of interest and help reinforce public trust in city government.