This week’s late entry of popular finance expert Stephen Rossi as a write-in candidate for South Pasadena’s District 2 City Council seat came as a surprise to many, not least of all Jack Donovan, the only candidate currently in the race.
According to Donovan, Rossi expressly told him he had no intention of running for the seat to which Rossi was appointed Sept. 2 to fill out the remaining term of Dr. Marina Khubesrian, who pulled out of the race and resigned Aug. 11.
After the resignation, the Council discussed how to proceed at its Aug. 19 meeting. It could appoint someone right away, interview candidates and appoint one of them or, since there were only five council meetings left before the end of the term, simply leave it vacant.
As Donovan was the only candidate, giving him a chance to get used to the position by appointing him seemed like a reasonable possibility.
“Barring the emergence of a very strong write-in candidate who manages to garner more than 50 percent of the vote, we know who is going to succeed on December 2” when the winner is seated, Councilmember Diana Mahmud observed that day.
“Has anyone contacted Mr. Jack Donovan to ascertain whether he is interested?” she asked.
“Yes,” replied Mayor Robert Joe. “He isn’t interested.”
“That’s correct,” added Councilmember Mike Cacciotti.
Donovan’s disinterest in the appointment was news to him. Here’s how he tells it:
After Khubesrian’s resignation, Donovan got a call from Chief City Clerk Maria Ayala, who asked if he was interested in being appointed to the remaining term.
Donovan asked who exactly wanted to know.
The City Council, he was told.
“Who on the city Council?” he pressed.
Donovan said Ayala responded, “Well Jack, it really doesn’t work like that. It comes from the city manager’s office, and they tell the Council.”
Donovan relented. “I said, ‘No, I want to see what they say at the (Aug. 19) Council meeting’” at which the matter was set to be discussed.
He said he was angry when he watched the meeting and heard what Joe said. Donovan, who said Joe offered him his endorsement in the race, hadn’t spoken to the Mayor for weeks before the meeting or since. But he took no further action. “I thought about it and discussed it and it was obvious the Council didn’t want me. I didn’t want a 2 to 2 vote. I decided ‘no, I have a campaign to finish.’”
He said he has no animosity for the Mayor, “just disappointment in him.”
“I did not have a direct conversation with Mr. Donovan,” Mayor Joe acknowledged this week. But he does not recall exactly how he learned Donovan wasn’t interested in the appointment. “My understanding is staff talked to Donovan and then probably came back to me, possibly through the city manager.”
Neither Chief Clerk Ayala nor Councilmember Cacciotti could not be reached Friday.
Donovan says Rossi’s entry into race won’t affect his plans. “I will vigorously campaign for the Council position.” He said he’s been posting signs, placing ads and will participate in Monday’s candidate forum.