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Transportation official to step down from high-speed rail panel

Richard Katz, who also serves on the boards of the L.A. County MTA and the Metrolink commuter system, will leave his post Dec. 1. The attorney general is reviewing whether he and another board member's work on local agencies is compatible with their high-speed rail positions.

November 17, 2010|By Rich Connell, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles transportation official Richard Katz is stepping down from the state panel overseeing development of California's $43-billion high-speed rail system.

Katz, who also serves on the boards of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Metrolink commuter rail system, said Tuesday that he submitted his resignation to the governor and will leave his state post Dec. 1.

Katz and California High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Curt Pringle have been the focus of a state attorney general's review to determine if the state and local positions they hold are legally "incompatible" because of the potentially overlapping interests on rights-of-way, station locations and other matters.

Pringle is mayor of Anaheim and a member of the Orange County Transportation Authority board, but he will relinquish those offices next month.

Katz has argued to the attorney general that his public offices are compatible. But he said he did not want to risk being able to continue work on local transportation projects, including a plan to leverage county sales tax receipts to build 30 years of transit projects in the next decade.

The so-called 30/10 proposal "is one of the most exciting things I've ever been involved in," Katz said. He said he also wants to see through a major collision-avoidance system and other safety improvements at the five-county Metrolink system.

"I'm not willing to risk all that for high-speed rail," Katz said.

The state Legislative Counsel opined that offices held by Katz and Pringle are incompatible. And some key lawmakers have criticized the multiple hats worn by the pair. If a court ruled against Katz, he might have to forfeit one or more offices.

A spokeswoman for the state attorney general office said a formal opinion on the Pringle-Katz question is still in the works. She said she did not know if the issues would soon be considered moot because Pringle and Katz are leaving potentially conflicting offices.

rich.connell@latimes.com

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