On Tuesday, Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe announced the hiring of Cornelius Johnson as Interim City Manager and he had started on Monday.
At approxmently the 4-hour and 42-min mark of the meeting, Thorpe made the announcement where he said “Welcome to our interim city manager who started on Monday, Mr. Con Johnson.”
According to Antioch Public Information Officer Rolando Bonilla, the city would not be issuing a formal announcement.
Will the city be making a formal announcement on the hiring of Con Johnson which the mayor said at the end of the meeting.
His response in an email: “No”
At the November 9 meeting, the city council agreed to hire Johnson pending a background check in a 3-2 vote with Councilmembers Mike Barbanica and Lori Ogorchock. Johnson was hired on a 1-year contract at $20,137 per month and was given full authority to hire and fire department heads—meaning he can hire the next Antioch Police Department Chief of Police.
Although a background check was apparently completed, the city has not publicly addressed the filing of bankruptcy by Johnson, several foreclosures on his record, nor clarify his statement in the cover letter and resume that he is a former San Francisco Police Captain which is not shown by his retirement records with the State of California as a police lieutenant. Its still not clear if Mr. Johnson has misrepresented his experience. These items have all been brought up by many members of the public.
The city has not stated who performed the background check, who approved the passing of the background check, if any red flags came up or if the city is choosing to ignore them. Its also unclear if the results were shared with the council prior to the on-boarding process of Mr. Johnson.
Bonilla has not responded to the following questions:
- What do you mean no? So the city is not going to be transparent that it now has hired a interim city manager? We find out about this after a 4 ½ hour meeting?
- When was the decision made?
- Was the background check completed? If so, when and who did this check?
- There is still no response to Mr. Johnson potentially misrepresenting himself as a captain while retirement shows lieutenant. Can this be explained as to why it was not a misrepresentation so we can put this issue to bed one way or another.
According to Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock, Johnson had the votes and once he passed the background check he was hired.
Monday morning, council was notified that Mr. Johnson passed his background check and the on-boarding process was to begin. I did not realize the interim city manager position was taking effect on Monday until the Mayor reported it out at closing remarks,” said Ogorchock. “I am very surprised to learn the city is not issuing a press release regarding the finalization of the hiring of Con Johnson. To me, the hiring of a PIO is to share current information from the city to share the happenings with the community whether it be good or bad news.”
Ogorchock stated this appeared to be a continuing issue with our city public information officer.
Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica said he is hearing from the public who called the process rushed and have concerns that they would have liked addressed before he was on-boarded.
“This is another example of what I am talking about with the public information officer not sharing information with our community. In terms of transparency, the public should be made aware as to who is running the city and if a city manager is brought on, an immediate notice to the public should have went out. This is why I intend to bring this before council in early 2022,” said Barbanica. “The public perception that I am receiving is the public is not happy about this and feel this was thrust upon them in a rushed manner. To me, this appears to be selective transparency from the public information officer.”
Regardless who the council hires as city manager, Barbanica said he wanted whoever is running the city to be successful because that will make the community successful.
On Wednesday, Barbanica released the following statement saying he wanted improved transparency from the city to its residents:
Johnson will replace Antioch City Manager Ron Bernal who announced in September the intent to retire at the close of 2021, ending a thirty-six (36) year career in public service.