Former Fairfield mayor and current El Dorado Hills Community Services District board candidate Chuck Hammond’s opponents have been polite, to date, about the allegations and investigations that resulted in four Fair Political Practice Commission violations while he served the city of Fairfield.
Accusations of influence peddling and financial improprieties dogged Hammond’s tenure on the Fairfield City Council and later as mayor in the 1990s.
Most were never proven, but Hammond accumulated a total of $8,000 in fines while in office. The FPPC cited him twice for failing to report personal loans — once for casting a City Council vote that benefited the source of a loan and once for failing to report an obscure “leasehold” interest.
Hammond was never charged with any criminal activity. He left office on his own terms. Newspaper accounts of his tenure depicted him as a progressive promoter of Fairfield’s community interests.
But the sensational allegations, investigations and violations stymied his attempt to win a seat on the Solano County Board of Supervisors, and have now followed the effervescent youth basketball coach to El Dorado Hills, where he’s one of several strong candidates for two CSD Board of Directors seats. He narrowly lost to Bill Vandegrift in 2010.
Hammond’s past went public near the end of a recent candidate forum when the six contenders were asked if they’d ever been fined by the FPPC. The follow-up question asked if they had any unpaid campaign debts to local vendors.
Hammond replied affirmative on both counts, dismissing his FPPC infractions as tardy disclosure filings. He conceded some outstanding debt, but offered no details.
He was elected to the city council in 1983, and became the first black mayor in Solano County history in 1993. Mayor is a separately elected office in Fairfield, unlike the city council round-robins employed by smaller cities such as Placerville and Folsom.
FPPC reports confirm two violations against Hammond in 1991, when he was on the council, and another two in 1996 as mayor.
The first infractions were for an unreported $3,000 loan from downtown merchant Howard Grubb, who advocated a statute that would allow him to display merchandise on the sidewalk. Then Councilman Hammond subsequently voted in favor of the statute.
Afterward Hammond told the Fairfield-Suisun Daily Republic, “I made a mistake. I admitted it. I paid the fine. It’s time to move on.”
The eternally upbeat Hammond saw the airing of his Fairfield past as an indication of his campaign’s mojo.
“I’m flattered to be asked about that stuff,” he said, “because if no one asked it would mean we’re no threat to anyone and had no chance of winning.”
Former Daily Republic columnist Joel Gordiejew was Hammond’s friend and planning commissioner. He described the mayor as a victim of political dysfunction — a progressive mayor straddled with a slow-growth council that opposed his community expansion and economic development efforts.
“Chuck was energetic and knew a lot of people,” said Gordiejew. “With a little help he could have made some great things happen.”
Hammond claimed he could have landed any one of three minor league baseball teams for Fairfield, including the team that became the Rivercats.
Gordiejew recalled a 1996 Hammond-engineered move of the Oakland Raiders training facility to Fairfield that failed at the last minute over complaints about potential congestion and lack of council support.
In 1994 Hammond again took personal loans from friends — one of whom he appointed to the Fairfield Planning Commission, another ran for City Council.
Investigations by Fairfield District Attorney David Paulson and the FPPC in September 1995 yielded two FPPC infractions and no criminal charges.
The FPPC reportedly confirmed the loan, but lacked evidence to file a separate violation against Hammond.
The mayor wasn’t as fortunate with a second loan from a friend, $5,000 from John Mraz, a fellow Allstate agent who subsequently ran for City Council.
DA Paulson found that Mraz obtained some or all of the money for the loan from developer Stanley Davis, a fact Hammond claimed he was unaware of at the time, according to the Daily Republic.
The FPPC released its report in March 1996. It contained details of the allegations and resulting probes, naming just two as infractions: Hammond’s failure to report the Mraz loan and his failing to disclose a “leasehold interest” on the $1,000 per month lease for his insurance office.
Hammond pleaded ignorance on both counts and told the Daily Republic in April he was embarrassed he made the mistake but felt vindicated by the settlement because the violations paled in comparison to the rumors of wrongdoing that circulated during the investigation.
“In 13 years of public office, I’ve never run a dirty campaign and I never will,” he said, a promise he repeated in El Dorado Hills.