Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's pick to run the pension system for public safety employees has dropped out of the running, saying Wednesday he didn't want to "get wrapped up in the politics" of the agency.
Ray Joseph, 40, had been slated to appear Wednesday before the City Council for a final confirmation vote. But the Maryland resident told The Times he had grown concerned about the possibility that the next mayor, who takes office July 1, would want somebody else to run the retirement system.
City Controller Wendy Greuel and Councilman Eric Garcetti are running in the May 21 election to replace Villaraigosa, who steps down June 30.
"The way it was explained to me, I could be removed by the [pension] board if a new mayor comes in and decides to make that change. That was a concern," said Joseph, who sent a letter Tuesday announcing his change of plans.
The announcement from Joseph, a former official in the federal Department of Interior, delivers a setback to the mayor's messy and protracted search for a new head of Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions, which administers benefits to retired police and firefighters.
The pension board, which oversees a $15.8-billion investment portfolio, has been locked in a power struggle that has pitted Villaraigosa appointees against representatives of public safety workers.
Over the last two years, the pension board twice recommended interim general manager William Raggio to run the system. Villaraigosa vetoed that choice both times. Last month, the board — which has five of its nine members selected by the mayor — narrowly picked Joseph on a 5-4 vote.
George Aliano, one of the board members who voted against Joseph, said the hiring decision should be delayed until a new mayor is in office. "That's who the general manager will be dealing with — the next mayor," said Aliano, a retired police officer. "Why shouldn't that person be the one involved in this selection?"
Joseph described his decision to withdraw as "primarily a family decision," saying he did not want to be separated from his wife and children for extended periods of time. But he acknowledged that other factors had also weighed on his decision.
"Sometimes there's underlying events that make you aware you shouldn't take a position," he said.