Antioch Mayor Sean Wright said Thursday that the City Council will hold a special meeting to remove planning commissioner chair Ken Turnage II after comments he made on social media.
Wright said he offered Turnage a chance to resign and declined, which is why they will be holding a special meeting of the City Council.
In a statement released Thursday by Wright:
“In the City of Antioch, the City Council is committed to maintaining public confidence and trust in our city government. As public officials in one of the largest and most diverse cities in Contra Costa County, we are called to serve all residents of Antioch; whether young or old, rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy, housed or unhoused.
Recently, the Chair of the Antioch Planning Commission posted a social media communication that does not represent the City of Antioch or the City Council. The City Council and the public, through comments, emails and phone calls, have questioned the ability of the Chair of the Antioch Planning Commission to represent them and many Antioch residents have called for the commissioner’s resignation or removal.
Mayor Sean Wright spoke to the Chair of the Planning Commission and asked for his resignation from the City of Antioch Planning Commission. Upon his refusal to resign, Mayor Wright called for a special meeting of the Antioch City Council to discuss the immediate removal of the commissioner from the planning commission.
We wish to emphasize that we remain committed to listening to the public’s concerns, and we recognize that we have an obligation to the residents of the City of Antioch to act swiftly to respond to their concerns,”
Turnage explained Thursday upon hearing the news he was going to be removed after declining to resign, said he was talking “ecological balance and balance of nature”, something that he says has been going on for thousands of years.
“Could I have worded in better, yes. Could I have used a better example, yes. But at the end of the day, all I did was suggest what Sweden did and try to explain it on my personal Facebook page for a discussion, not in any capacity as an Antioch Planning Commissioner. Now look at Sweden, what they did worked. Italy did something similar. All I was talking about was the idea of ecological balance of nature and survival of the fittest in terms of population control.”
Turnage argues he was sparking a discussion based on science and nature and said that some on the city council took an obscure view of the comments for political gain in the upcoming election.
“Its pretty pathetic that at every opportunity some will take the opportunity to insert the race card into a conversation where it has no place and never occurred. Its sad people are taking that view and running with it versus talking about science,” explained Turnage. “One thing that I have learned over the last few days, you are not free to have your own opinion in America.”
Tuesday Night City Council Recap
Tuesday night, Antioch Councilwoman Monica Wilson called for his resignation or for the City Council to remove him from the planning commission.
“I do want to take a moment to raise an issue that I believe undermines the great work that our city is doing to protect our citizens,” Wilson said in regards to the posting on Facebook. “Our Antioch Planning Commission Chair made some inappropriate comments on social media. To paraphrase, he basically made the argument that it was totally OK to allow in our community, from the elderly to the homeless, to die a COVID-19 for the benefit of reopening our economy contrary to our shared values. Furthermore, I just want to point out, my ancestors already died for the sake of our economy through a marked period in our time called slavery. Let me be clear, he is entitled to his opinion, as I am entitled to mine. However, as a member of our planning commission his words are merely not consistent of what we are doing and how we care for our citizens,”
She continued by saying the city will continue to work with the county on a response to COVID-19 to do what is best.
“His words do not in any way reflect the values of the city council or city administration. Personally, I find his words completely disgusting, inappropriate and extremely reckless. We do not have any place in public discourse for that. Lastly, I am also appalled to date none of us on council have responded to this reckless comment. It is inexcusable. Comments like this and letting our community know that we are there for them and we support them and value everyone’s life in dignity and respect no matter who they are in Antioch. As an understatement, I am beyond disgusted by those remarks… I too am asking either he resigns or we as council need to deal with taking him off of that commission.”
Councilman Lamar Thorpe said he shared Wilson’s concern.
“Councilwoman Wilson, I share your concern and disgust. I thought those comments were inexcusable and they have no place in city government, today. To your point, it’s contrary to the shared values we have as a community and I’m beyond disgusted. So, thank you for your remarks.”
Thorpe’s comments come four years after he was removed from the Economic Development commission and as Monica Wilson Council backup after his involvement with the Card Room Initiative, sponsored by the California Grand Casino in Pacheco (CA) and is in the electoral process in the City of Antioch.
“I am thoroughly disappointed because I have a disagreement with you mayor and council about a particular issue and that you would use that to retaliate against me to remove me from the Antioch Economic Development Commission where I have been advocating for the prosperity of our city,” explained Thorpe. “Not only have you burdened the city of Antioch with the fiscal responsibility of an election, you have gone out of your way to remove an asset because I do not hold the same opinion as you.”
Thorpe was ultimately removed by Mayor Wade Harper and the council.
Following Thorpes comments on Tuesday, Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts chimed in.
“Monica, that was very passionate what you had to say. I know my expectation is that council and staff and commissions all acknowledge their service to the community, and that they act with professionalism and that they take great care for all of the community members… honestly, its absurd that we would want to take one person’s life is more valuable than another.”
Mayor Sean Wright also condemned Turnage’s comments.
“I have stopped watching and looking at Facebook just because there is so much division. The comments were not brought to my attention until yesterday, through email,” Wright stated. “I think the comments were abhorrent, should not have been said and stated. But I will fight for the right to say things. We do and need to hold ourselves to a higher standard as council members and as commissioners and those who represent the city. So, there is discussion to be had as far as that goes.”
Statement in full made by Turnage on April 23, 2020: