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London's mayor faces disciplinary hearing over comments

Jewish reporter likened to Nazi

LONDON -- London's mayor will face a disciplinary hearing for comparing a Jewish journalist to a Nazi concentration camp guard, a local government watchdog said yesterday.

The Standards Board for England said an investigation into charges that Mayor Ken Livingstone ''failed to treat others with respect and brought his authority into disrepute" had concluded that a disciplinary hearing should take up the matter.

The Adjudication Panel for England, which will conduct the hearing, could bar Livingstone from office for up to five years, censure him, order him to apologize or force him to undergo training, said a spokesman for the Standards Board.

Livingstone said the investigation had cleared him of the more serious charge of failing to comply with the Greater London Authority's code of conduct. The Standards Board spokesman, who declined to be identified in keeping with board policy, said he did not have the confidential report and did not know whether it had partially cleared Livingstone.

''The Standards Board has rejected the allegation that I failed to comply with the GLA's code of conduct in relation to this exchange," Livingstone said in a statement.

The panel generally holds hearings 15 weeks after receiving reports of alleged misconduct, but announced no specific date for Livingstone's hearing.

The outspoken mayor has refused to say he was sorry for the comment, which drew calls for contrition from Holocaust survivors, the government's race-relations watchdog, and even Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The mayor said he had not meant to offend the Jewish community when he asked Evening Standard reporter Oliver Finegold whether he had been a ''German war criminal."

Finegold, who had approached the mayor for comment after a reception for the gay and lesbian community in February, replied that he was Jewish.

Livingstone told the reporter he was ''just like a concentration camp guard. You're just doing it because you're paid to, aren't you?" He referred to Finegold's employer as ''a load of scumbags and reactionary bigots."

Finegold recorded the comments and they were later played before the London Assembly, which passed a unanimous motion calling on the mayor to withdraw them.

''I have nothing to apologize for," he said at the time. ''My words were not intended to cause such offense."

He defended his attack on Finegold, his employer the Evening Standard, and its sister paper, The Daily Mail.

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