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Ethics Committee examining new complaints about Rep. Richardson

September 18, 2012|By Richard Simon | This post has been updated, as indicated below.
  • Rep. Laura Richardson, (D-Calif.) outside the White House in Washington in a file photo.
Rep. Laura Richardson, (D-Calif.) outside the White House in Washington… (Carolyn Kaster / AP File…)

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Long Beach), who drew a rare House reprimand last month, is once again drawing scrutiny from the House Ethics Committee.

The panel has advised Richardson that it continues to receive complaints about her even after she was admonished for improperly pressuring her congressional staffers to work on her campaign, verbally abusing and intimidating them and using taxpayer-funded resources for personal and political activities. 

The committee continues to receive "disturbing allegations that you have engaged in intimidating conduct towards your official staff" and misuse of her office budget, according to a recent letter it sent to Richardson.  "Any further conduct that has the effect of retaliating against or intimidating your staff…may constitute a new violation of House rules and/or federal law."

There was no immediate response from the congresswoman. Richardson faces a tough November race against fellow Democratic Rep. Janice Hahn in a redrawn district.

The letters to Richardson were first reported by Politico and then obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

The committee urged Richardson to "adopt the most cautious approach possible toward your interactions with your staff and the bright line that must be drawn between your official activities and your campaign or personal activities."

The committee noted that Richardson recently fired the communications director in her congressional office after the staffer provided testimony used in the ethics complaint against her.

"The committee takes very seriously any allegation of an attempt to intimidate or retaliate against persons who cooperate with its investigation, and will react swiftly to determine if such allegations are true," according to the letter to Richardson. The committee noted that it has received reports that Richardson has discouraged her staff from contacting the committee. The committee said it is  contacting current and former employees of their right to contact the committee if they witness improper conduct.

Richardson attorney Joseph E. Sandler said the congresswoman has "abided strictly" to the terms of an agreement with the committee and "not used any official staff or resources for political or personal purposes."

He said the former staffer was fired for "repeated poor performance,"adding that Richardson provided more than 200 pages of documents and a memo to the committee spelling out the reasons for the termination.

As for the allegations that the congresswoman has discouraged staff from contacting the committee, Sandler said: "That is also untrue. Her staff has contacted the committee dozens of times" since the House issued its reprimand "to check on the political versus official status of events and for many other reasons.''

"The committee's continuing campaign against Rep. Richardson at this point appears calculated to undermine her authority and ability to run her office and to deprive her of the same ability as any other member of Congress to hire, manage, supervise and fire her staff,"
Sandler said. "These actions are uncalled for and inappropriate."

[For the Record, 7:32 p.m. PST  Sept. 18: This post has been updated to include the response of Richardon's attorney.]

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Richard.Simon@latimes.com

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