Home Antioch Antioch City Council Takes No Action on Police Bonus Package, City Manager Hiring

Antioch City Council Takes No Action on Police Bonus Package, City Manager Hiring

by ECT

On Friday, during a special Antioch City Council Meeting, the council did not act on an incentive program aimed at hiring more police officers, instead they provided staff with the direction. They also did not announce the appointment of Con Johnson as city manager and instead took no action.

Council Provides Direction for Bonus Package to Hire More Cops

For the second time, the Antioch City Council has taken no action on its bonus package to hire more Antioch Police Officers.

On Friday, the Antioch City Council discussed its employee referral and recruitment signing bonus to attract both lateral officers and rookie cops, but could not take action after Exhibit A was not attached to the Resolution. The council opted to give direction for staff to bring back models at 3-year and 5-year plans at $25k.

The discussion comes after Antioch Police Chief Steve Ford requested a continuance of the item in an effort to come back with a “more complete product” at a previous meeting.

The changes from the agenda item from two weeks ago include increased bonus pay for rookie cops from $5k to $20k, its added back in the homeownership incentive of up to $60k and included a repayment of bonuses in the event of separation.

Chief Steve Ford highlighted that the package would include a $50k lateral officer hired and $40-60k for an entry level officer. There is also more work to be done with the $60k in the form of a loan that could be applied to a home within the city of Antioch.

According to Ford, Antioch Police are authorized staffing levels of 115 sworn officers, however, they are currently staffed at 101 officers with at least 10 anticipated separations coming within the next year. He called it a “much deeper” conversation.

“We have 21 injured, 3 on FTO, 72 full duty officers, we only have 38 on patrol, we have 13 vacancies and we have 10 more separations over the next year,” explained Ford. “38 officers on patrol responding to calls, that gives us 6-7 officers per shift to man a city of 100,000 people which speaks to two very big concerns I have which is public safety and officer safety.”

He further highlighted they have an FBI investigation ongoing which is impacting the department.

“Depending on how that investigation unfolds that could further deplete our staffing in the near future,” said Ford.

Prior to council discussion, Mayor Lamar Thorpe stated this was his proposal and those were not final numbers which could be adjusted saying it did not have to be $40k but thought they would be a good starting point.  He did say the Antioch Police Department officers were the second highest paid officers in the county and one of the higher paid agencies throughout the Bay Area.

“This is about recruitment and bringing people here,” stated Thorpe. “It’s important to understand the context that we are in right now and its not a very good one. It doesn’t matter how you paint it, its not a good one.”

Councilmember Lori Ogorchock stated she believed they needed to supplement those officers, dispatchers and staff who stayed during the pandemic. Although the city does have a retention program in place for longevity pay (starts at 9-years), she said officers who stayed do deserve a bonus. She was not in favor of the housing bonus.

Councilmember Tamisha Torres-Walker said they likely were not voting on a home assistance program tonight but noted there were other programs out there to look into—such as being in a home for 5-years. She also stated that the current bonus program was “too low” and there should be a discussion but thought the $40k was too high.

“I think a four-times jump is too high, I am open to discussing some potential numbers. Maybe its $15k or $20k but $40k seems a bit high to make a commitment,” said Torres-Walker who noted the department has struggled for a decade with its staffing levels. “I don’t agree with the $40k.”

Thorpe said this was a temporary proposal and in 1-year they would re-evaluate while advocating that they needed a big number.

“The initial bump has to be pretty high because I can’t emphasize enough on the impact of the investigation and the impact of the investigation growing,” said Thorpe who said they would be sitting with unfilled positions.

Councilmemebr Monica Wilson said the home loan program concerned her and believed the $40k was too steep. She said she would be okay with a range between $15-25k bonus program. She also wanted a breakdown between the three-year and five-year program and what it would look like.

Chief Steve Ford

Dr. Steve Ford explains to the council the importance in investing in community safety

Chief Ford told the council the department was in a “staffing crisis” and could not emphasize that enough.

“With a city of over 100,000 and we have 6-7 officers per shift. If someone calls off, now that reduces to 5 or 6. If officers get tied up on a long call or lengthy call for service, they will be out of service,” said Ford. “Its about public safety and officer safety and we have to look at it from a standpoint of not an expense, we are investing in public safety. This is the cost of doing business and the department is in a very unique position. I’ve been down this road before in my prior organization and I’ve seen this play out several times. Its going to be very impactful now matter how this plays out. Without question, when you are talking 38-officers on patrol, six per shift. That is daunting. It’s a pretty dismissal situation and in light of investigation still unfolding and still evolving its going to have a ripple effect in the organization.”

Ford noted what keeps officers in law enforcement is good leadership and called it a unique profession where at any second on any day ones life could end.

“Its not just about an expense, I understand the fiscal concerns, but I think a safe environment is worth investing into,” said Ford who noted that if they are serious about public safety it would be an investment, not an expense.

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica called this a crisis and the $10k being offered right now was not working.

Ford agreed stating the $10k was not going to “propel people to come into the profession.”

Barbanica said the home program concerned him because it was “right now” money and if they hired 10 officers who took advantage of it they would be putting $600k into an escrow account versus staggering it over time. He said he was in favor of an increased incentive program.

“We obviously have a crisis going on here and public safety should be a focus for us,” said Barbanica. “Yes, I agree we should be doing something for those who stayed but that shouldn’t be limiting that to the police department, we should be looking at all the employees that stayed during COVID.”

Barbanica proposed if they moved forward, they needed a “shocker” number.

“I know the public is going to see this number and wonder what we are doing, but just the salary savings alone of a $1 million a year that we are doing right now, not by choice, but because we don’t have the staff right now. We are saving that salary right now. I would much rather we invest and get the right people in doing the job and then in the future we don’t have to do this.”

Barbanica proposed they do something in the $25k range and it be staggered noting he didn’t believe a year would be long enough and they would be back discussing this program next year. He stated they are looking at a 2-3 year program but would be paying for this through salary savings.

Torres-Walker urged transparency saying the police department is not the only department understaffed and that every department is understaffed noting they voted for seven more code enforcement officers and that still isn’t enough. Code Enforcement only has 5 of 14 positions filled.

She continued stating she wanted to ensure the right people were hired.

Thorpe stated staffing levels are a challenge throughout the country and this would be just a tool to allow the police department to increase staffing—including hiring teachers. He suggested that if this go through, they utilize this for all staff for all positions currently open but said the amount would not be as great as the police department.

Under council consensus:

  • The council agreed to a $25k/$30k incentive program (increments)
  • Laterals and entry levels would get same plan in terms of pay.
  • Initial give would be $15k in first year, the remaining spread over 3-5 years.
  • Staff will bring back models at $25k and $30k at 3 or 5 years
  • No consensus on housing bonus (will not come back)

The item will be brought back at some point in the future.

This item was before the City Council after Mayor Lamar Thorpe held a press conference on April 4 in response to low police staffing levels and pressure put on by citizens regarding public safety. Thorpe announced a $40k signing bonus for new cops along with down-payment assistance.

Antioch Council Takes No Action on Hiring Con Johnson as City Manager

On Friday, the Antioch City Council opted to take no action in appointing interim city manager Con Johnson as its permanent city manager. The move came less than a week after Mayor Lamar Thorpe held a press conference with the media announcing the appointment.

No reasoning was given for the “no action” but at least two councilmembers are on record stating they want to vote on a process for hiring the next city manager while all four new candidates running for election have opposed the hiring at this time–this publication also supports an open and fair process in the hiring of a city manager.

During public comments, three residents spoke with 2 against the hiring and 1 in favor.

Mark Jordan blasted the mayor and told the council they should be ashamed of themselves.

Antioch Resident Mark Jordan speaks during public comments

“I cannot believe what is going on down here at the city council. It is clown car on fire. It is as bad as Trump be president for four years. You would propose to hire a man who is absolutely unqualified and to have a non-transparent, non-open process. If the room were full, I would probably be the only person who actually applied to be the city manager and who went through the open process. That person right there (pointing at Assistant City Manager Rosanna Bayon Moore) should be prompted to be city manager.

But maybe she is not black enough for you. Like Tammany Brooks was not black enough for you. It is unconscionable what you are doing to the city. I had dinner with Tammany and his wife in March in Idaho, and I bemoaned what was going on here in the city. He looked at me and said you have to understand sometimes a person will burn the entire kingdom just so they can rule over the ashes. And that is what is going on with the mayor. He is a narcissistic sociopath. No different than Trump. And you should be ashamed for following his lead. It is reprehensible what is going on.

I don’t know about Steven Ford other than I met him the other night and I offered to take him to lunch and we will have lunch in the next couple of weeks.

As for Con Johnson, I ran the background report, you overlooked the bankruptcy, the foreclosure, the judgements and the city attorney says well we are not going to talk about any of that. That is all public record, what is not public record is the employee complaints that currently is facing. So you are going to promote a man who has employee complaints. That is what you are going to do? You should all be ashamed if you vote to do this. Open the process or hire that person.”

Antioch City Attorney Thomas Lloyd Smith reported no reportable action on the appointment of the city manager after the council met for approximently 30 minutes in closed session.

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