Fish and Game Commission president Daniel Richards shot a cougar during an Idaho hunting expedition and, like many hunters, was photographed with the animal's body. The photo was sent to the Western Outdoor News blog with a caption reading: "I'm glad it's legal in Idaho."
Once that photograph started circulating the on the Internet, however, conservationists became outraged and Democratic lawmakers found a way to file an ethics complaint against the San Bernardino County Republican in addition to calling on him to resign from his post of four years.
On what grounds?
The San Francisco Chronicle explains that Richards allegedly violated state law by accepting a free hunt, complete with dogs and a tracker, at the "Flying B" ranch. The typical package at Flying B costs $6,800 but the ranch offered the commission president a free hunt -- a fact that did not escape Kathy Bowler, the former executive director of the California Democratic Party who filed the complaint.
Bowler cited state law limiting gifts to elected officials and state commission appointees to a maximum of $420 a year. According to SFChronicle, Bowler also complained that Richards did not report the gift to the FPPC.
To make matters worse, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, along with 40 Democratic Assembly members are now calling on Richards to resign over the incident, saying the killing of a mountain lion doesn't reflect California values. According to the Chronicle, Newsom also claims the incident is a distraction from commission business.
"I do appreciate that you did nothing illegal in Idaho, but it is clear that your actions do not reflect the values of the people of California," Newsom said.
But Richards is standing his ground and is challenging his Democratic assailants.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Richards wrote a letter Tuesday to an Assemblyman stating: "Do you really think a California Commissioner is actually obligated to follow California laws across these United States? Really?"
Responding to criticism that he killed the animal only for sport, Richards added: "We did dine on Mountain Lion for dinner...I will continue to hunt and fish wherever I please…There is ZERO chance I would consider resigning my position."
Some Republican lawmakers have rallied to Mr. Richards' defense, saying he had a right to hunt the mountain lion.
One of the state capital's most powerful Democrats, Senate President Darrell Steinberg, said Thursday he wasn't ready to say what action, if any, should be taken against Mr. Richards. Mr. Richards' appointment expires Jan. 15 next year.
Referring to the commissioner's letter to Mr. Hueso [assemblyman], however, Mr. Steinberg told reporters in Sacramento Thursday that "he acted like a jackass."
Mr. Richards is one of five fish-and-game commissioners appointed by the governor who set regulations governing activities such as hunting and fishing in California.
Below are videos from the "Flying B" big game hunting ranch where Richards shot the cougar: