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Actor Gets Taste of Some Real-Life Drama : * Court: TV star Gerald McRaney found himself on center stage--but this time it was in court fighting to retrieve money from his ex-housekeeper.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Actor Gerald McRaney, who can solve a household crisis in 30 minutes on his “Major Dad” television series, was in Pasadena Superior Court last week, trying to resolve a real-life domestic dispute that has festered for five months.

The court clash ended Monday, when Judge Jack Tso ordered McRaney’s former housekeeper, Paulette Ava Broughton, to pay $12,581 in restitution for funds she stole from McRaney and his wife, former “Designing Women” star Delta Burke.

Like the Marine Corps officer he portrays on television, McRaney displayed a rigid moral code and some stubbornness in pursuing charges against his former housekeeper. The case required the busy actor to review his household finances with a Pasadena police investigator and respond to probing questions from a defense attorney. He also encountered unflattering news reports about his private life.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Carol A. Rash, who prosecuted Broughton, said this week that McRaney and Burke sought criminal charges as a matter of principle. Rash said the time McRaney and his business representatives spent in court almost certainly cost McRaney more than he will receive in restitution from Broughton.

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“Obviously, they did not appreciate her taking advantage of them,” the prosecutor said.

But Broughton’s attorney, Laurence Ring, offered a different explanation. “It seems to me this was a personal thing because she quit,” Ring said. “They’re real bitter over her resignation. These people are vindictive.”

McRaney and his business manager could not be reached for comment early this week regarding the court case and its costs.

Between November, 1990, and last July, when she resigned, Broughton, 45, cooked gourmet meals and managed the couple’s home in Pasadena. But earlier this year, Broughton began using the household checking account to pay her personal expenses, including clothing, furniture and visits to a weight-loss clinic, McRaney testified last week.

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“Expenses for management of the house--plumbers, electricians and grocery shopping--were authorized,” the actor said. “I thought this would be understood that she was not to pay her bills with my money.”

When Broughton’s attorney asked McRaney why he did not call his housekeeper after she resigned to seek restitution without police involvement, the actor grew indignant.

“Since Ms. Broughton was the one who took money from me, I thought it was her place to contact me about repaying it,” McRaney said.

The actor contacted Pasadena police last summer after concluding that more than 30 of the checks Broughton wrote between May and July were for her personal expenses. The district attorney’s office charged her with grand theft.

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Ring denied the charge at a preliminary hearing, saying his client was allowed to write checks for personal expenses if she later repaid the account. Broughton was ordered to stand trial, however.

On Dec. 3 she pleaded no contest. Ring said Broughton did so to avoid a possible jail sentence, under a deal offered by Judge Tso. She was placed on five years of probation and ordered to complete 250 hours of community service, doing clerical work for the California Department of Transportation.

Over the past two weeks, Tso heard testimony regarding how much restitution the housekeeper would be required to make. He refused to allow Ring to discuss overtime pay that was allegedly owed to Broughton, saying that should be resolved in a civil court.

On Monday, Tso subtracted two checks for legitimate household expenses and ordered Broughton to repay the remaining funds.

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“She’s upset about it but she’s glad it’s over,” Ring said.

He said Broughton has already found a new job, working for singer-actress Pia Zadora.


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