RODEO -- Supporters of Rodeo's municipal advisory panel Chairman Anthony Hodge turned out in force Thursday, hailing him as a righteous man who mentors the unemployed, shelters the homeless and feeds the poor, often with money from his own pocket.
The chairman's supporters blasted his critics and detractors who had called for Hodge's resignation over perceived conflicts of interest between his work for a nonprofit partially funded by the Phillips 66 refinery and his membership on the Rodeo Municipal Advisory Council, where he voted in favor of the refinery's proposed propane-and-butane recovery project.
New Horizons Career Development Center, where Hodge is executive director, contracts with Contra Costa County and receives funding from Phillips 66.
LaTasha Chillous, a New Horizons employee, said she was at "a crossroads in my life" when Hodge offered her a helping hand.
"There are no words to express my gratitude to Mr. Hodge ...(for) the generosity you have shown me, to give me a chance for employment," Chillous said at the monthly advisory council meeting. "You are truly an inspiration. I thank you for your kindness."
Many of the approximately 30 Hodge supporters said they are members of Zion Hill Baptist Church, where Hodge is the pastor. They angrily denounced calls for Hodge's resignation from the municipal panel, made at the March meeting.
"When you badger this man, you're badgering God," said Sheire Howard, a New Horizons client and former Rodeo resident.
One woman accused Hodge's critics of seeking to deny him his freedom of speech.
"I support Phillips 66," she said. "Are they going to tell me I have to leave town?"
County Supervisor Federal Glover, who nominated Hodge for the panel in 2012, said in a statement last week that Hodge has done nothing to disqualify him from serving.
Hodge did not report his jobs with New Horizons and Zion Hill on the required Statement of Economic Interests he filed with the county for 2012 and 2013. However, he did list the two entities as sources of business income of more than $10,000 each to Anthony Hodge, a "religious organization," in 2013.
New Horizons receives a $25,000 annual grant with the county to provide education, job training and placement, and life skills. The grant contract agreement contains background information including the executive director's salary of $78,000 in fiscal year 2012-13 and $60,000 in 2013-14. The organization's budget in those years was $295,000 and $247,000, according to the agreement, although Hodge boasts of a much larger endowment -- $700,000 a year -- in a promotional video for New Horizons produced in 2012.
Hodge has declined numerous requests from this newspaper to discuss New Horizons' finances. Last week, he said he would call a reporter when he is ready to talk.
Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at Twitter.com/tomlochner.