Bill Lewis had hoped to close the book on his 23-year career at City Hall with the same discretion that he used in dealing with other misfortunes that rocked his life this year.
The last few months have not been easy for the 46-year-old director of the Employee and Community Services Agency. In February, his wife of six months died of cancer. Lewis' own health suffered under the stress of his personal life and a job that demanded long hours.
Lewis never spoke publicly about his problems, however, and he left his job on sick leave two weeks ago in the same manner.
During a lengthy interview last week, Lewis said that he thought it was time to end his long career with the city.
"My kids are grown. I'm not married. I think it is time for me to take stock of my life and see where I want to go with the rest of it."
His only regret, he said, is that he was not able to leave quietly, without his departure and its surrounding controversy heralded in local newspapers.
Word leaked out little more than a week ago that Lewis had left his job after the Board of City Directors rejected him as the top candidate and favored choice of City Manager Donald F. McIntyre for one of two newly created deputy city manager positions.
A friend, Superior Court Judge Eric Younger, had written an angry letter to Mayor Bill Bogaard, severly criticizing the board for not selecting Lewis. Younger mailed copies of the letter to local newspapers.
The letter did not sit well with Lewis. While he appreciated his friend's concern, Lewis said last week that "Eric's letter really blew my mind. I would never have written a letter like that. He's a very close friend of mine, and he told me that he was going to write a letter, but I had no idea that it was going to be like that."
During the interview, Lewis reflected on his career in Pasadena that began in 1962 as a patrol officer in the Police Department. He later became a commander and was hand-picked by McIntyre to head the Personnel Department about seven years ago. It was the beginning of a long friendship based on mutual admiration, Lewis said.
It was no secret that Lewis was McIntyre's choice for the deputy city manager job, even though a consulting firm was hired several months ago to conduct a nationwide search for both deputy city manager positions.
"I've always had tremendous faith in Bill," McIntyre said Thursday. "I think the board knew that. The (interviewing) process gave anyone else who could compete a chance to compete. The process validated my belief" that Lewis was the best person for the job.
McIntyre said he was not surprised that the board opposed Lewis. "It had been an issue all along," he said. "I think there was some concern on the part of some board members about Bill as an individual."
Health Problems Cited
When asked what those concerns were, McIntyre replied, "I don't even want to speculate on it. It's been in the press. I really don't want to recite those reasons or even remember them, really."
City officials have been quoted as saying they were apprehensive about Lewis because of his failing health and personal problems.
"I think it's really too bad for Bill to have spent so many good years with the city and have served so well to have ended up leaving this way," McIntyre said.
And while Lewis is admittedly disturbed by the board's rejection of him for the planned deputy city manager post under which he would have headed community and safety services, he, too, said he was not surprised by the decision.
"That would have been a very powerful position," Lewis said. "But they want the power and that's OK. I've lived here all my life. I know a lot of people here. It's almost like I have my own constituency. And I think some board members resent that."
Several board members had publicly expressed concern that Lewis, because of his poor health and the loss of his wife, would not be able to handle the deputy city manager job.
Lewis said Tuesday that he resented those complaints.
"I'm not going to deny the fact that if you lose your spouse, that's hard," he said. "She was sick for three years. She was 45 years old. But my job didn't suffer and my performance certainly didn't suffer.
"Anyone who's been through what I've been through, it's bound to have some effect. But I don't work with the board members on a daily basis. They have no firsthand knowledge of my daily performance."
At the urging of his doctors, Lewis said he went on sick leave two weeks ago. "My doctors have been saying for years that my job was too stressful. My whole family wanted me out of the city. Then this happens. One of these days I'm going to get the message."
Lewis said he suffers from hypertension and has been considering leaving the city for several months. "I resigned in October," he said. "But Don (McIntyre) convinced me to stay." The only reason he decided to stay, Lewis said, was to apply for the deputy city manager position.
Lewis is an affable man, given to self-effacing humor and speaking his mind. "I don't mince words with board members," he said. "If they're wrong, I tell them they're wrong."
To Lewis, the events of the past few weeks are indicative of Pasadena's political climate. "There has been a shift with this board," Lewis said. "All the power emanates from the board and they want all the power in themselves. They change with the wind. I'm not going to stay around and fight the board forever."
The Board of City Directors is still reeling from a recent controversy over a proposed special assessment district that enraged hundreds of residents and prompted them to demand a recall of the board. The plan to hire two new deputy city managers was also assailed during the assessment district controversy as a waste of city money.
Questions Posts Wanted
But Lewis said he doubts that the assessment district had anything to do with the board's opposition to him. He believes, he said, that the board did not want to fill the positions in the first place.
"The reason that I speculated that this would happen," he said, "is that (the board) didn't want to do it originally and when it came down to the last minute, they reversed their decision.
City Manager McIntyre has said he is going ahead with the other deputy city manager position but is reevaluating whether to fill the position that Lewis wanted.
"Some of the board members would just as soon we did nothing about it," McIntyre said.
City directors have taken seemingly contradictory stances on filling both positions. They approved the plan earlier this year, but backed off after the assessment district controversy last month. About three weeks ago several directors said they would probably go ahead with the plan to fill both posts, despite the assessment district uproar. Now board members say they will fill only one position.
The plan to hire two deputy city managers was estimated to actually save about $180,000 by eliminating several management positions, city officials said.
Now that it is certain that he will not be named a deputy city manager, Lewis said it is time for him to leave.
On the advice of his attorney, Lewis said he could not discuss his plans or how he is going to end his employment with the city.