The state's political watchdog arm warned Fish and Game Commission head Dan Richards that his guided mountain lion hunt in Idaho violated the state's gift laws, but it closed the case today without a penalty.
In a letter, the Fair Political Practices Commission said it decided to end its review with a warning because Richards recently paid the Flying B Ranch $6,812.50 for the hunting trip, albeit after the 30-day period prescribed in the state's Political Reform Act. The law limits gifts for certain public officials at $420 a year from any one donor.
Richards drew attention in February after the trip when a photo cropped up online depicting him holding a dead mountain lion. Killing a mountain lion is illegal in California, but legal in Idaho. Forty Assembly Democrats signed a letter calling for his resignation, but Richards refused to step down and defended his out-of-state actions as perfectly legal.
Former California Democratic Party head Kathy Bowler, who was copied on today's FPPC letter, filed the initial complaint with the state agency.
"Your actions violated the Act because you received a gift over the limit," wrote FPPC enforcement chief Gary S. Winuk. "However, because you did repay the donor relatively soon after receipt of the gift, although after the 30-day window for repayment prescribed by the Act, we have decided to close the case."
Winuk added that future violations by Richards would result in penalties up to $5,000 per violation.
Richards' attorney, Stephen Larson, said the commissioner paid for the hunting trip on March 5.
"We don't believe technically it was a gift, but be that as it may, we're happy to have this resolved," Larson said.
Editor's Note: This post has been updated to correct the amount Richards paid for the trip, due to incorrect information initially provided by the FPPC. Updated at 3:36 p.m. April 12, 2012. Also updated at 5:50 p.m. to include comments from Richards' attorney.