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Newport Beach Councilman Reprimanded

Richard Nichols apologizes for suggesting a planning official took a bribe. His colleagues refrain from a more formal punishment.

June 12, 2003|Stanley Allison | Times Staff Writer

The Newport Beach City Council stopped short of formally censuring Councilman Richard Nichols on Tuesday, but his colleagues took turns reprimanding him for comments suggesting a planning commissioner had taken a bribe.

Later, Nichols acknowledged that he made a mistake and apologized for his comments, made last month during a Planning Commission meeting.

"I stand properly chastised," he said.

Mayor Steven Bromberg said Wednesday that he hopes the dressing down will end the flap.

"My feeling is this should end here tonight," Bromberg said. "I don't believe it needs to go any further."

Nichols could have faced more formal punishment, such as a council resolution condemning his behavior.

The controversy arose when Nichols suggested at a May 22 Planning Commission meeting that Commissioner Larry Tucker's vote on a Balboa Peninsula height variance was financially influenced.

"It looks like you're taking money for this one," said Nichols, according to a transcript of his remarks.

After a storm of protest from planning commissioners and council members, Nichols apologized in a letter printed in a local newspaper.

Still, Bromberg asked the city attorney to investigate and determine what punitive steps the council might take in response.

But council members decided only to decry Nichols' remark and suggest he'd shown poor judgment.

"You have to be exceedingly careful that you don't give the impression that you are influence-peddling or intimidating, and you've got to be scrupulously careful that you don't leave the impression that there might be improprieties when there are not," said Councilman Gary Proctor.

Nichols said he never meant to suggest that any member of the commission was doing anything improper.

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