RODEO -- Several Rodeo civic activists have called for the resignation of the chairman of the Rodeo Municipal Advisory Council amid questions of whether he represents residents or the petroleum refinery that is the town's largest business.
Rev. Anthony Hodge has served on the advisory council since 2012. He also is pastor of Zion Hill Baptist Church and executive director of New Horizons, whose website names Phillips 66 as "a primary funding agency."
Hodge has not responded to several requests from this newspaper to comment about the finances of the nonprofit organization he heads, New Horizons Career Development Center, which contracts with Contra Costa County and receives some funding from the Phillips 66 refinery.
Unincorporated Rodeo has no elected council, so it falls on the advisory council, appointed by the county board of supervisors, to represent the 8,500-odd residents' interests to the board and county staff in planning, zoning and land use matters.
At a county Planning Commission meeting in November, Phillips 66 spokesman Mark Hughes cited the RMAC's support of a propane-and-butane recovery project shortly before the commission approved a land use permit. Opponents have appealed, and a hearing is set to continue June 3.
Hodge, in an interview earlier this year, downplayed the refinery's financing of New Horizons and said it played no role in how he voted in refinery matters before the Rodeo advisory council. He said Phillips contributed $100,000 to New Horizons in 2009 and $50,000 each year from 2010 through 2013, and that the county was the biggest contributor to New Horizons' $289,000 budget last year.
But records provided by the county show only $25,030 in county contracts with New Horizons in 2013, part of a three-year total of $139,356. The 2012 total of $95,134 included one $75,000 contract for industrial job training and educational support paid from a special trust fund established with fees from ConocoPhillips, since renamed Phillips 66.
In the promotional video "'Thanksliving' New Horizons Serving God's People," produced in late 2012 and available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHpmWqs7QEU, Hodge claimed that the organization's "endowment" increased from $93,000 to $700,000 a year. In the video Hodge refers to funding "we received from (Contra Costa) Supervisor Federal Glover's office as well as Phillips 66 ... to make sure we prepare people for entry-level positions into career opportunities."
Hughes did not respond to an inquiry about the refinery's financial contributions to New Horizons. Earlier this year Hughes said Phillips 66 has a long list of community giving but declined to specify amounts.
At the monthly RMAC meeting in March, resident Teagan Clive asked Hodge to resign over conflict of interest allegationsafter the news that inquired into Hodge's ties to Phillips 66.
"'I think this might be a good time for you to step aside,'" Clive recounted in an email about what she told Hodge during the meeting. "Hodge said he was not aware of any such press coverage. Others on the committee said that they didn't know about 'the exposé' either. They began asking questions. Finally, he admitted knowing about the article, but refused to discuss it."
Another resident, Janet Pygeorge, expressed anger that Hodge is on the RMAC and disappointment that Glover put him on, according to the meeting minutes.
Glover, who nominated Hodge for the council, defended Hodge and called him an upstanding member of the community
"Whenever someone puts himself out there in a public position, he or she must be prepared to take some measure of heat," Glover said in a written statement, adding, "I applaud him for remaining on the MAC -- as a public servant -- when it would be so easy to step away from the name-calling and unsubstantiated accusations put forth by certain individuals who disagree with him."
Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at twitter.com/tomlochner