Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg joined the debate today over the embattled head of the state Fish and Game Commission's Idaho cougar hunt, blasting Dan Richards for acting "like a jackass."
"When you hold a high public position you have a responsibility to act with decorum, act with respect towards the office and, you know, what's he doing?" the Sacramento Democrat said in response to a reporter's question. "You want to make your political point, make your political point at some other stage in your life when you're not an appointee and serving under a governor."
Richards, the commission's president, has been the subject of criticism and calls for resignations since a picture surfaced online of him posing with a mountain lion he killed on a hunting trip in Idaho. California banned hunting mountain lions, which is legal in Idaho, via the ballot in 1990.
Forty members of the Assembly signed a letter last week asking Richards, an appointee of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, to resign. A group of GOP lawmakers later came to his defense. Steinberg said in a meeting with reporters that he wouldn't mind if Richards, whose term ends next January, "just sort of slithered out of office early."
But with Richards telling the Assembly in a letter, "There is ZERO chance I would consider resigning my position," at least one member is reportedly considering a resolution to oust him with a majority-vote in both houses.
Steinberg said he is not "completely shutting the door" on the idea of a vote to remove Richards from office, but he would prefer to see the Senate "stay focused on the people's priorities," such as the budget.
'I think the guy ought to quit being a distraction and make whatever political point he wants to make on his own time or his own dime, but I'm weary on spending a lot of time on anything other than the core priorities that we have to accomplish this year," he said.
Richards reiterated his intent to stay put this afternoon, telling KFI AM talk radio hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou "I'm not leaving." He said a legislative vote to kick him out of his job "basically would be saying lets remove independent voices on all commissions."
Richards blamed Humane Society of the United States for pushing out the photo and sparking the campaign to oust him, citing long-running disagreements and political differences. He said he did not expect to see such a large public backlash for sharing a photo that captures "what we do as sportsmen."
"Of course, I didn't know it would lead to anything like this," he said of the reaction to the photo. "I expected that potentially there might be some folks who (would) not necessarily enjoy it or appreciate or be in favor of it that would see it, but I didn't have any idea if would get anywhere near what it is right now."
And for those wondering, the hunting enthusiast said the cougar he killed tasted "really good."
"It's like a pork loin and it's white meat and it's really good," he said.
Fish and Game Commission head says defiantly he won't resign
Photo credit: Whitehotpix/ZUMA24.com
Editor's note: This post was updated to clarify that Steinberg didn't call directly for Richards to step down. This post was updated at 4 p.m. with quotes from Richards.