Hotel mogul gets post despite Emeryville dustup

hardage.jpgGov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today appointed Samuel A. Hardage, 68, of Rancho Santa Fe, to the state Commission on Judicial Performance.

If that name sounds at all familiar, it’s because Hardage is not only a major GOP donor, but also the cofounder, president and CEO of Woodfin Suite Hotels, which has been locked in combat with the City of Emeryville and local workers over wages and working conditions.

Lotsa gory details, after the jump…

Here’s a partial timeline:

  • Feb. 2006 — Woodfin files a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Measure C, Emeryville’s 2005 voter-approved living-wage law for hotel workers. At the company’s request, U.S. District Court Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong dismisses this suit in January 2007 with leave to refile at some later date.
  • Sept. 2006 — Woodfin employees bring a wage-and-hour action in state court against Woodfin based on purported violations of Measure C.
  • Dec. 2006 — The hotel fires two dozen housekeepers, citing discrepancies in their Social Security records which imply immigration violations; workers say its retaliation and city council passes an emergency measure to prevent the firings, but they’re fired anyway.
  • Jan. 2007 — Alameda County Superior Court Judge Ron Sabraw enjoins the hotel company from firing the workers at least until the city can investigate their claims.
  • March 2007 — Woodfin Suites re-sues Emeryville over Measure C; Armstrong dismisses the case in June.
  • June 2007 — Emeryville City Manager Patrick O’Keeffe orders the hotel to pay back wages to the workers. Meanwhile, company officials defend having Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-San Diego — the House Immigration Reform Caucus‘ chairman, in whose district Hardage lives — ask U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to investigate the Emeryville workers’ immigration status.
  • Woodfin Suites refused to comply with the city manager’s order, and don’tcha know, the City Council is scheduled to hear the hotel company’s appeal at 7 p.m. this Monday, Aug. 27; workers and local residents organized by the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy plan to stage a rally and protest at 6:15 p.m. outside Emeryville City Hall, 1333 Park Ave.

    Anyhoo, Hardage is a former San Diego Republican Party chairman who also has served as president of Hardage Enterprises, his real estate development, construction and management company. He was the founding board chairman of the Vision of Children Foundation, as well as an officer and pilot with the U.S. Air Force from 1961 to 1966, assigned to the Military Airlift Command and serving in Vietnam. This position does not require Senate confirmation and there is no salary.

    Earlier in his career, Hardage was a member of President Ford’s advisory committee, was elected delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business in 1980, and was appointed by President Reagan to the President’s Commission on Industrial Competitiveness in 1983. He was a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1978 in Kansas, and was the GOP nominee to be that state’s governor in 1982.

    And Hardage has been a generous donor to Republican political causes, including his contributions of at least $62,573 in the past five years to the governor’s campaigns and committees under his control.

    Josh Richman

    Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.