NAME, Years Elected to City Council

James Dods served on City Council in 1875 and 1876 (president).




In 1883, Dods was sentenced to jail for embezzlement for five years (possibly while serving as city clerk/treasurer). His bond was $120,000.4 His crime had something to do with certifying bondsmen that didn't meet the strict criteria of acceptance. Because there was no county assessor, each person had to be checked with 6 townships, which was a time-consuming process, and Dods didn't take that time. Securities then were estimated at more than they were worth.6 The City Council stumbled on his embezzlement when they tried to call in school and sewer bonds and Dods stalled them. They examined his books, which matched up too precisely. When they went to the banks to follow up, the "coin" wasn't there. The council proceeded to Dods' house, but he pled sick and wouldn't come to the door. Finally, the next day, Dods turned himself in.7 Dods then confessed to the council and proceeded to plea not guilty on the grounds that the dates of the embezzlement couldn't be proved. He thus subjected himself to a trial which was followed closely in the media: there were lots of twists and turns with delays and jurors and it was all reported.8

While in prison, he momentarily considered a hunger strike, but thought better of it, and ate "with a relish born of hunger."5 Apparently a large number of important people in the city including members of the city council and the mayor asked for his pardon and he got out 5 months early: when he committed the crime his "physical state entitl[ed] him to consideration."

Dods lived at 1000 Webster Street.


1879-1883: City Clerk and Treasurer (re-elected 2x before embezzlement issue)2


1. Baker, Joseph Eugene. Past and Present of Alameda County. SJ Clarke: 1914.

2. "DEFAULTER ... BONDS: Are They Invalid, and Will Oakland Lose the Money?" San Francisco Chronicle: May 20, 1885.

3. Journal: Appendix. Reports, Volume 1. California Legislature: 1887.

4. Greer, James K. Colonel Jack Hays: Texas Frontier Leader and California Builder. Texas A&M Press, 1952.

5. "OAKLAND ITEMS." San Francisco Chronicle: August 23, 1883.

6. "STRAW BONDSMEN IN OAKLAND: Men Going Security for More Than They Are Worth." San Francisco Chronicle: July 20, 1883.

7. "ANOTHER OAKLAND DEFAULTER.: City Clerk and Treasurer Dods Short About $50,000." San Francisco Chronicle: June 14: 1883.

8. "DODS PLEADS NOT GUILTY: His Hope of Escape on a Purely Technical Point." San Francisco Chronicle: July 17, 1883.