Dan Richards

March 8th, 2012, 4:14 pm
Posted by BRIAN JOSEPH, Sacramento Correspondent

Once again, California faces a budget crisis. Revenues are projected to come in lower than anticipated. The governor and special interest groups are sparring over competing tax measures. Angry college students are occupying the Capitol.

And yet the most talked about issue in Sacramento these days is a Fish and Game Commissioner who legally killed a mountain lion in Idaho.

Ever since news of Dan Richards‘ hunting trip came to light in late February, the Watchdog has been patiently waiting for the story to burn itself out. But after three weeks of intense scrutiny, the story doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. News organizations, state policy makers and callers to legislative offices continue debating this only-in-California controversy.

The latest development: about 60 people spoke in Richards’ defense at a commission hearing in Riverside on Wednesday, backing the beleaguered commissioner as animal rights groups and environmentalists continue to call for his head. This was after leader of the Senate called Richards a “jackass” and 40 Democratic Assembly members and the lieutenant governor called for his resignation.

For those of you who have had better things to do than consider the transgressions of a public official accused of no actual wrongdoing, here’s the facts of the case: Dan Richards, the owner of a Coldwell Banker brokerage in the Inland Empire and the president of the state Fish and Game Commission, was photographed recently grinning over the carcass of a mountain lion he shot and killed during a hunting trip in Idaho. Richards says he later ate the lion.

Hunting mountain lions is legal Idaho, but has been outlawed in California since voters passed Proposition 117 in 1990. And that’s the rub.

Democrat legislators, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, animal rights groups and environmentalists all say Richards actions were grossly inappropriate for someone charged with enforcing the hunting laws of California. One critic even compared it to a drug czar using drugs in a country where it’s legal.

Richards has been asked to resign, but he’s defiantly said there’s “zero” chance of that happening. Meanwhile, Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg — despite calling Richards a “jackass” — has indicated he has no intention of bringing up a vote in the Senate to get rid of Richards, which would suggest that commissioner could still hang onto his job.

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