Paso Robles councilman accused of using position for profit

May 30, 2016
Paso Robles Councilman John Hamon

Paso Robles Councilman John Hamon

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

Paso Robles Councilman John Hamon is accused of violating conflict of interest rules because he participates in government decisions that allegedly impact his business interests and income. Hamon is currently running against three other candidates for the San Luis Obispo County District 1 supervisor seat.

Hamon leases property from Paso Robles at the airport industrial park and subleases some of it at much higher rates, earning him a yearly return of at least tens of thousands of dollars. Simultaneously, Hamon participates in government decisions on the airport and advocates against allowing new business into the industrial park, creating an alleged financial conflict of interest.

City officials have warned Hamon about the conflict of interest, but the councilman has continued to vote on matters relating to the airport, doing so as recently as Thursday when Hamon argued against expansion and new leases at the airport industrial park.

Critics say Hamon does not want investors to obtain new land leases where they could construct new industrial rental properties. New leaseholders could lure tenants away from Hamon’s old, aluminum structures.

In October 1979, Hamon signed a 50-year lease for four parcels at the airport industrial park, totaling 4.72 acres.

Shortly later, Hamon constructed multiple aluminum buildings on the city-owned lots. He leases out some of the space to manufacturing and industrial businesses. Hamon also operates his own business, Hamon Overhead Door, from his industrial park.29db930b-1f27-4c4e-9da7-cc927ed5a0b7

The original lease Hamon signed set the rent he pays the city at $1,048 a month with possible increases in rates not to exceed 8 percent per year. At a current rate of 1.5 cents a square foot, Hamon’s monthly lease runs approximately $2,450.

Hamon currently subleases some of the property for about 40 cents a square foot.

Last year, Hamon served on a city committee that selected consulting firm Airport Business Solutions to analyze the city’s leasing policy and rent rate structure. Then, as a member of the city council, Hamon made the motion and voted to hire Airport Business Solutions to conduct the analysis.

On his Statement of Economic Interests, known as a Form 700, Hamon stated that he receives $10,001 to $100,000 in rental income from property at the airport industrial park. The disclosure also states four businesses located at the industrial park each pay Hamon at least $10,000 a year in rent.

0dea2b3a-1d79-4eda-aafa-307464a0a029According to California’s conflict of interest code, if a public official has a real property interest of $2,000 or more, including leaseholds, the official cannot use or attempt to use his position to influence a government decision that could have a financial impact on his real estate interests. When an official has a financial interest in a government decision, he is required to recuse himself from the matter.

However, Hamon regularly participates in city council votes on matters relating to the airport. He also serves as the council liaison to the city’s airport advisory committee.

Paso Robles Councilman Jim Reed said Hamon’s actions create a clear conflict of interest.

“If you look at his 700 form, and what constitutes a conflict of interest, Mr. Hamon is right there,” Reed said. “How can he say he doesn’t have a conflict of interest?”

Reed said he informed City Manager Tom Frutchey, who notified City Attorney Iris Yang. Reed did not receive a response from them, he said. However, since then, Yang has asked Hamon to recuse himself during some discussions regarding the airport.

Cody Ferguson, a resident of the area since 1947, questions why Hamon participated in the discussion Thursday, including a discussion about opening up further land leases, when Yang has told him not to vote on airport issues and to leave the room during discussions about them.

“He should not be participating,” Ferguson said. “He has a huge conflict of interest.”

Hamon did not respond to request for comment.

On Thursday, Paso Robles officials held a joint meeting of the city council and airport advisory committee. In addition to arguing against the issuance of new leases at the industrial park, Hamon took part in a vote on a plan to transform the airport advisory committee into an airport commission. The change would give more power to the airport body, making it operate in a similar fashion to a city planning commission.

During the council discussion, Hamon argued against the creation of an airport commission. Critics say Hamon uses his position as council liaison to the airport advisory committee in order to lobby for his personal business interests.

When the other four council members said they supported the idea of an airport commission, Hamon changed his stance and opted to vote with his colleagues. The proposal to create an airport commission passed on a 5-0 vote.

Yang said the vote did not constitute a conflict of interest because it would not have a material effect on any financial interest that Hamon has.

Earlier this year, Hamon was accused of a separate conflict of interest involving his door company and his position on the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) board. Since 2013, Hamon has cast several votes in favor of requiring state parks to implement the APCD’s Oceano Dunes dust rule.

While Hamon was casting votes on the regulation, Hamon Overhead Door received a contract for a door installation that was part of a project state parks needed to complete in order to comply with the dust rule. The contract called for Hamon Overhead Door to receive at least $18,699.

Kevin Rice, a critic of the APCD, spoke at an air district meeting in January and requested that Hamon refrain from voting on matters pertaining to the dust rule.

“You cannot vote for regulations and then make money on the back end from what you’re voting on,” Rice said.

However, APCD legal counsel Ray Biering defended Hamon, who voted on the dust rule matter minutes later.

Hamon is currently in a four-way race for the District 1 county supervisor seat that is being vacated by Supervisor Frank Mecham. The other three challengers in the race are attorney Dale Gustin, Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin and businessman John Peschong.

If one of the candidates receives 50 percent or more of the vote in the primary, the race will end on June 7. If no candidate gets a majority of the vote, the race will move on to a November runoff.

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notablankslate

There are 4 Nice guys running for First Dist. Sup, but only 1 is endorsed by Lynn Compton, Dan Dow and Debbie Arnold. At this point everyone should know that is Peschong.


SLOBIRD

I will say that other Council members may also be guilty of using their powers to protect and profit from their Council decisions, especially Steve Gregory as his bio states “Steve operates his own consulting business as a Project Design Consultant focusing on new construction, restoration and remodeling of existing vintage homes. Additionally he consults in small business strategies, land use, and entitlement matters.” but no question John Harmon who has a vested interest in the activities and development of the Airport has blocked this over the year. First, because of his investment he should not be the City representative on the Airport Committee, and of course Gregory is his backup. Second, John keeps saying the Ms, Yang, City Attorney said he has no conflict of interest, owning the 50 year leases, making over a $100,000 on the rentals on those leases so I say post the letter confirming her decision. If you do not have a letter, get one IMMEDIATELY since she has already ruled on this according to your statements. Third, do the right thing and step down on that committee. We all know that perception of wrongdoing is never a positive way to run a business or to show your respect for the community you serve. You will not get to be Supervisor, now or never, so show the people of Paso you want to do the right thing.


smiley

Greedy businessmen gravitate towards politics where they can manipulate situations to enrich themselves. Our government is corrupt at all levels and the citizens are ignorant and apathetic. Change will only come when they make us miserable to the point of rebellion.


TWEEKSBALMER

He just wants to join a group of higher level crooks it is the American way when working for the government.


Rambunctious

Just learning from the top!

TERM LIMITS!!!!!!!


Rambunctious

public financing of elections


Rambunctious

reduction in pay and benefits and any increases based upon results


Rambunctious

they work for us


Rambunctious

Forget take our country back…we need to take our government back. Influence peddling, campaign fund raising shenanigans, crone capitalism, one sided corrupted media, and political illegal activity from top to bottom.


Perspicacious

Right, no fraud involved with the use of tax money for campaigning. You and Ostrander are fools.


Perspicacious

Term limits are undemocratic.


Paso_citizen

I also wonder why this story should surprise anyone. Totally agree with other comments that state that using the power of one’s office is practically expected in today’s world. To not do that makes you one dumb elected official.


Having attended many of Paso City Council meetings and seeing first-hand what type of

council member he is – it would totally and completely shock me if this story was not true.


Recall, that Hamon was out front in praising Lisa (Chitty, Chitty, bang-bang) as an outstanding representative of law enforcement and an excellent police chief.

Come one – give me break!!


Now he is ‘humbly” asking the citizens to elect him as County Supervisor so he can

further use his new power to even further himself further.


Are the voters even close to being that stupid? Hamon sure hopes so.


Perspicacious

Yes, they are. D3 voters prove that.


Citizen

John Hamon also has problems with conflict of interest in approving all the housing developments where he has the opportunity to sell more garage doors. As far as I know, he had never shied away from voting yes on any of these developments.


What’s worse is that he led the charge to grant reductions in development fees to “encourage jobs” during the Great Recession. The city lost what was an estimated $500,000 in fees, even though Hamon was told at the meeting that the main benefactor of the reduced fees was a Fresno builder who brought all of his workers with him. I’ve always wondered if this developer ended up buying garage doors from Hamon.


fishing village

FPPC , Fair Political Practices is our only hope to stop elected officials who don’t play by the rules. In our town a former Mayor bought himself and his landlord a splendid parking lot. He had a business within the 300 feet prohibited as a distance for voting, (an Orcutt case was similar), but the FPPC did not act! We need a watch dog organization that will stop this kind of behavior.


achillesheal

It will never stop. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.


Once these politicians get a taste of how dirty the system is they can’t help but steal from it. That train is never late!


Mr. Holly

The problem with the FPPC is their main concern is with political contributions. Their handbook states that many of these actions are legal although highly unethical and advises not to do it. There are many politicians that obey the law but are unethical.

The problem is that the FPPC has no desire to pursue unethical behavior. So where do you go to address unethical behavior? It seems like nobody wants to address this as both local political parties are like a club and cover for those who are unethical and will usually support them at re-election time. The good old boy syndrome.


achillesheal

Has there ever not been a politician that has used their position for profit?


They areal scum. Why is this even news?


Take a look at who is running for president.


achillesheal

“Are all” scum, rather.