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UC Regent Norman Pattiz, dogged by fallout over sexually inappropriate comments, to retire

UC Regent Norman Pattiz, dogged by fallout over sexually inappropriate comments, to retire
Norman J. Pattiz, right, shown at a UC Board of Regents meeting in March, apologized for his comments about a female podcaster's breasts. At left is Regent Eloy Ortiz Oakley. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

University of California Regent Norman Pattiz, who has been dogged by fallout over sexually inappropriate comments he made last year, announced his retirement Thursday after 16 years of service.

Pattiz, chairman of the Courtside Entertainment Group, told The Times that his decision was not prompted by growing pressure from fellow regents and UC students for additional disciplinary action after sexually inappropriate remarks he made to a podcaster last year.

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Pattiz had jokingly asked Heather McDonald, a Los Angeles comedian, if he could hold her breasts while she was taping a bra commercial in his PodcastOne studio in May 2016. After she aired his remarks on her "Juicy Scoop" show five months later, Pattiz apologized. He also took sexual harassment prevention training, as is now required for all regents under a stricter ethics and misconduct policy prompted by the Pattiz incident.

Pattiz, 74, said Thursday that he was not pressured to retire but wanted to spend more time on other ventures — including traveling to Machu Picchu with his wife, Mary.

"I have nothing to be ashamed of," he said Thursday. "My conscience is clear. I just want to take 16 years of great memories and move on."

Pattiz was appointed as a regent by Gov. Gray Davis in 2001. In 2014, he was reappointed to a 12-year term by Gov. Jerry Brown. He has made his mark leading the university's oversight of the Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories.

In a letter to Board Chairman George Kieffer, Pattiz said he accepted the second term to give the regents time to find a successor to head the national laboratories' oversight committee. He will step down in February, when Regent Ellen Tauscher is scheduled to take over the chairmanship of the committee and the LLCs that manage two of the labs.

"Few people understand the enormous responsibility we undertake in connection with our national labs, and for so many years you have been the university's point person," Kieffer wrote in his reply to Pattiz. "After so many years you deserve a break."

Student Regent Paul Monge welcomed the news, saying students have pressed for Pattiz's resignation for months. "Regent Pattiz's continued presence on the board is inconsistent with the UC's commitment to addressing the culture of sexual harassment and sexual violence on our campuses," he said in a text.

Monge, joined by two ex-officio regents, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, have pushed for stronger action against Pattiz.

The three sent Kieffer and UC President Janet Napolitano a letter in late November expressing "deep concern" about Pattiz's sexually inappropriate comments and a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a former PodcastOne employee. They also criticized Pattiz for saying that UC students should feel "ashamed of themselves" for calling for his resignation.

Kieffer, in his Dec. 6 reply, told the regents that no further action on Pattiz was planned, although he would continue to monitor the ongoing litigation.

Monge, Newsom and Torlakson then prepared a draft letter formally asking Kieffer to allow regents at the January meeting to vote on opening an investigation into Pattiz. The letter was not sent because Pattiz announced his retirement.

"None of that had anything to do with my decision to retire," said Pattiz, adding that the regents did not have the power to investigate him without his consent and that he never would have given it. "My attitude is, it's been 16 years, the labs are taken care of and this is the time to go."

In addition to his work with the laboratories, Pattiz said he was proud of his efforts to win board approval of a statement of principles against anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance.

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