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Censure of Richard OKd by Council : City Hall: The councilman, who has called his colleagues racist, is absent when the vote is taken. One council member abstains; another walks out.


PASADENA — With the alleged offender absent and two of his colleagues declining to vote or abstaining, four City Council members voted Tuesday to censure Councilman Isaac Richard for rude remarks and "anti-social" behavior.

Then the council voted to demand a public explanation for remarks attributed to Richard in Monday's newspapers charging that the censure motion was part of a campaign against the black councilman by a "white, racist City Council."

"These kinds of actions should not be allowed to go unanswered," Councilman William Paparian said.

The censure vote carries no specific penalties, though it has already provided ammunition for Richard's critics outside the council, some of whom are reportedly preparing a recall campaign.

In an earlier action, the council approved a City Charter amendment establishing penalties for censured officials, depriving them of such privileges as travel expenses, insurance benefits, Tournament of Roses tickets and the use of city-owned computer equipment. But the penalties do not go into effect until at least October.

Despite the censure, council members appeared riddled with self-doubts Tuesday about how to handle their obstreperous colleague.

"Frankly, I don't know what will change his behavior," said Mayor Rick Cole, who later dissented in the vote to ask Richard for an explanation. "I doubt that this will do anything but give him a platform to announce that the city is being run by four racists."

Cole suggested that Richard's actions reflect a troubled personality.

"These are not the charges of a worthy adversary," Cole said. "These are the charges of a person who needs help."

Richard has angered some of his colleagues in recent weeks through a series of statements and incidents. Last month, after Housing Administrator Phyllis Mueller filed a sexual harassment complaint against him for cursing and threatening her during a council meeting, Richard publicly apologized to her.

Then, Richard became outraged when his colleagues supported an investigation into the Police Department's failure to report a 911 call from the estranged wife of Police Chief Jerry Oliver, who is black. He stormed out of the council meeting, calling Cole a bigot.

On Monday, Richard was cleared by the district attorney of charges that he had brandished a gun at some teen-agers during a July 11 incident in northwest Pasadena and that he had illegally carried a concealed weapon in his car. On that occasion Richard attacked his colleagues as racists.

"The most unacceptable thing is that, every time you disagree with him, whether he's accosting a staff member of one of us, he accuses you of being a racist," Councilman William Thomson said.

In Richard's absence, however, Councilwoman Kathryn Nack said she would abstain from voting, and Councilman Chris Holden, saying that he had been on vacation during the most recent incidents, walked out of the council chambers rather than even abstain. Jess Hughston, Cole, Paparian and Thomson voted for censure.

Richard, who was on a business trip Tuesday, responded bitingly Wednesday to his colleagues' actions.

"All I can say is that there is a double standard," he said. "Blacks are not allowed to speak their minds in the council, especially aggressive, left-leaning blacks."

He said that Cole and Paparian had rudely confronted their colleagues during earlier administrations. Paparian at one time sued the council for operating in secrecy. Cole had frequent run-ins with colleagues when he was first elected nine years ago, angrily walking out of meetings.

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