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Schwarzenegger appointee to athletic commission resigns, another is under fire

State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg refuses to hold confirmation hearings for the pair. An ethics probe of the commission is underway over members getting free admission for friends from promoters they regulate.

September 25, 2009|Michael Rothfeld

SACRAMENTO — The leader of the state Senate announced Thursday that he would knock two of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's appointees off the troubled California State Athletic Commission, but as he did so, one of the members abruptly resigned.

The board, which regulates boxing and mixed martial arts, has had problems for years with management, personnel, regulation and ethics, state audits and other records show.

Last week, The Times reported that commissioners had obtained from promoters they regulate free admission to big-ticket sports events for numerous friends and relatives. A state ethics agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission, launched an investigation.

On Wednesday, the head of the state Department of Consumer Affairs, the commission's parent agency, also rejected the board members' choice for a permanent executive officer, the top administrative post. The position has been vacant since late last year, when the last executive officer left amid accusations of sexual harassment from a subordinate. The state settled the complaint this year for $75,000.

In his resignation letter to Schwarzenegger, Commission Chairman Timothy Noonan said he had quit because the commission's "outstanding" candidate was rejected.

Consumer Affairs Director Brian Stiger, in a letter to Noonan on Wednesday, praised the commissioners' choice, Pat Russell, a longtime boxing referee. But he said that due to its "well-documented" problems, the board "vitally needs an executive officer with a proven and demonstrated ability to effectively manage a complex government program."

Noonan, an insurance executive from Beverly Hills, and Commissioner Peter Lopez, an entertainment lawyer from Encino, had been reappointed by the governor earlier this year to new four-year terms.

But Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said Thursday that he would not hold confirmation hearings for either appointee, effectively forcing them out.

In a statement, Steinberg said Schwarzenegger had replaced members of the state's Board of Registered Nursing in July after disclosures of serious enforcement delays. The governor last week ordered athletic commissioners not to accept gifts but did not take any action.

Steinberg said he hopes that Schwarzenegger "looks for new members whose priority is protecting the health and safety of the athletes they regulate rather than arranging for free admission to boxing and [mixed martial arts] events."

Lopez can serve on the board until the end of the year without confirmation. The governor's office declined to comment. Noonan and Lopez did not return calls.

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michael.rothfeld@latimes.com

Times staff writer Lance Pugmire contributed to this report.

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