Parks Hammond has stepped down from the El Dorado Historic District Commission amid the backlash that followed when he admitted to “publicly embarrassing” a local bank last week.
In an email Wednesday, Mayor Frank Hash notified Hammond that the El Dorado City Council had planned to recall his appointment to the EHDC in light of the dressing-down Hammond gave to representatives of First Financial Bank during a commission meeting on Oct. 12.
Commissioners were considering a post-Certificate of Appropriateness request from First Financial, who had installed an ATM in the area of Jefferson and Cedar in preparation for the Sept. 27 grand opening of the Murphy Arts District.
Certificates of Appropriateness are required for most exterior projects within the city’s commercial historic district — particularly projects that will alter the historical and architectural character of the district.
The commercial district is roughly bordered by Locust, Cleveland, Oak and Jackson.
EHDC design guidelines set the standard of development within the district.
Hammond served on a subcommittee that spent nearly three years revising the then-decade-old guidelines.
Commissioners have long emphasized the need to present proposed projects prior to their start date to see if the work complies with the design guidelines.
During his tenure on the commission, Hammond had been vocal about the matter and expressed his displeasure, often bluntly, with having to consider after-the-fact COAs.
“I’m very upset that this comes up after it was installed. Y’all have dealt with us before, and you should have been here before,” Hammond said on Oct. 12 to Stewart Wilson and Melissa Jerry — senior vice-president of operations and executive vice-president/chief financial officer, respectively, of First Financial Bank.
“We can’t punish you, other than publicly embarrassing you,” Hammond added.
Wilson, Jerry and Elizabeth Eggleston, executive director of the EHDC, said the issue resulted from a misunderstanding.
They explained that MAD had approached the bank to install the ATM with a tight timeframe, and First Financial thought MAD had obtained the proper approvals, including those from the EHDC, to set up the machine.
“I will have words with MAD,” Hammond said before making a motion to accept the ATM. His fellow commissioners followed suit with a unanimous vote.
Several local citizens voiced their opinions about Hammond’s comments and the manner in which he delivered them by taking to social media, drafting letters to the News-Times and contacting city officials.
Many said they felt Hammond’s behavior was inappropriate.
In a reply to Hash’s email Wednesday, Alderman Mike Rice said he had received several phone calls about the matter, though he had not yet read the story that appeared in the News-Times on Oct. 13.
Hammond served on the EHDC for more than three years, having been reappointed by Hash to a second term in November 2016.
On Wednesday, Hash informed Hammond that he had the option of resigning from the EHDC to resolve the matter before it was added to the council’s agenda for its regular meeting today.
Hammond subsequently resigned, effective immediately.
Hammond corroborated the events that led to his resignation from the EHDC.
“I received an an email from Mayor Hash on October 16, 2017, requesting me to resign from the commission before the city council meeting, (today), due to my remarks in making the motion to approve First Financial’s ex-post facto request for a Certificate of Appropriateness for the Automated Teller Machine installed on Cedar Street near South Jefferson Avenue at the last El Dorado Commercial Historic District Commission. I compiled with Mayor Hash’s request,” Hammond said in a written statement to the News-Times.
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or by email at tlyons@ eldoradonews.com.