SOUTH PASADENA — City Manager John Bernardi has repudiated his endorsement in a local weekly newspaper of Proposition W, the utility tax measure that goes to the voters Tuesday, saying it came about because of an overly eager secretary.
On the front page of last week's issue of the South Pasadena Review was an article by Bernardi about city services, concluding: "Help yourself by helping us to maintain this service by voting YES on MEASURE W."
Bernardi said the words were added by his secretary, although he wanted to maintain official neutrality on the issue. The paper described the article in a headline as an endorsement of "Yes on 'W.' "
"My secretary put the words in," said Bernardi, who has written a series of articles in local publications, all of them seeming to favor the tax measure but all stopping short of an endorsement. "I think what she did was sincere, not deceitful in any way. She just got wrapped up in the emotions of the issues."
Tom Biesek, a leader of the opposition to the proposed three-year, 4% utility tax, said the apparent endorsement was improper coming from a non-elected official.
"He's not there to take stands," said Biesek. "He's there to run the city, not to get out into politics."
City Atty. Charles Vose said there was nothing improper about the city manager endorsing a political position, as long as he did it on his own time and used his own resources in doing so.
"He's not supposed to be doing things on city time," he said. "But, legally, anybody can take a stand."
Bernardi said he wrote the article on a plane to New York during a short vacation and mailed it to his secretary at his own expense. He acknowledges, however, that his secretary, a city employee, retyped the article and submitted it to the South Pasadena Review.
"While I'm obviously taking responsibility for this, there is an explanation," Bernardi said.
Bernardi's retraction will appear in Wednesday's issue of the newspaper, a day after the election.