Assemblyman Roger Hernandez voluntarily relinquished his right to drive Assembly pool cars Friday, hours after the lower house disclosed that he was driving one of the vehicles when arrested in Concord last month on suspicion of drunken driving.
The West Covina Democrat, in a written statement, said he learned after reviewing Assembly rules that he "should not have used a state vehicle for travel outside the Capitol to the Bay Area."
"I apologize to my constituents and colleagues for doing so," Hernandez wrote. "I do believe pending test results will make clear that I was in fact driving within the law. Until this matter is resolved,I am voluntarily relinquishing my access to drive state vehicles."
Earlier Friday, Assembly administrator Jon Waldie said that Hernandez did not have permission March 27 to take one of the Assembly's pool cars to Concord, where he was arrested in the parking lot of the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Hernandez was driving a Toyota Camry hybrid that had been assigned to him for travel in the Capitol area, Waldie said.
Lawmakers are making more extensive use of personal vehicles or pool cars after California's independent salary-setting commission eliminated a lease-car program serving Assembly and Senate officeholders.
The general rule is that Assembly members not take pool cars out of Sacramento without prior permission. Officials prefer that out-of-area trips be for a legislative or governmental purpose, Waldie said.
"He was not fully aware of those rules, I guess, being a first-term member," Waldie said. "He is now fully aware of those rules."
Pending results of a blood test, no charges have been filed against Hernandez in connection with the Concord arrest.
The 36-year-old lawmaker, who was traveling with a 29-year-old woman when arrested, contends that laboratory results will show that he was not legally drunk when officers took him into custody.
By contrast, Concord police say that Hernandez was spotted weaving his car in its lane about 2 a.m. on a weeknight. He failed a field sobriety test and declined to take a breath test when stopped in the parking lot of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, police said.
Days after his arrest, Hernandez told The Bee that he had been in the Bay Area to visit a friend. He had consumed "two, maybe three glasses of wine over the course of a period longer than four hours after dinner."
"I was not drunk," Hernandez said. "I felt very clear and coherent. I felt very comfortable driving."
Waldie declined to comment on what legislative or governmental purpose, if any, was served by Hernandez's trip.
"He gave me a description that could be described as a governmental purpose," Waldie said, declining to elaborate.
Hernandez's written statement did not specify what government purpose the trip served. A top aide said the assemblyman would not be commenting Friday beyond his announcement to stop driving pool cars.
Hernandez did not report the Concord incident to the Assembly's administrative office until two days after his arrest, Waldie said.
Notification came shortly after The Bee had received an anonymous tip about the arrest and asked Hernandez about it.
Assembly Speaker John A. Perez said Friday that he supports Hernandez's decision to stop using pool cars until the drunken-driving case is resolved.
"Like all Californians, Assembly members deserve due process and for all the facts to be presented," he said. "While that is taking place, I support Assembly member Hernandez's decision to voluntarily relinquish his access to drive Assembly pool vehicles."
* Amended at 4:25 p.m. to add Hernandez's decision to relinquish access to pool cars, and to add Assembly Speaker John Perez's statement.