On Tuesday, the Antioch City Council agreed to the hiring of Con Johnson as Antioch’s next city manager with a two-year contract at $266,400 per year.
This was approved in a 3-2 vote with Mayor Lamar Thorpe and councilmembers Monica Wilson and Tamisha Torres-Walker in support with Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica and Councilmember Lori Ogorchock dissenting.
Johnson was appointed City of Antioch interim city manager in November of 2021 in a 3-2 vote after the retirement of then City Manager Ron Bernal. Johnson was hired on a 1-year contract at $20,137 per month ($241k)
Willie Mims, NAACP, spoke in support of hiring Johnson and to follow through on the appoint.
“It’s now time to make a decision. We understand a lot of things are not popular with everybody but its popular with some people,” said Mims. “I would encourage you to finally make this decision that should have been made a long time ago.”
Dr. Jeffrey Klinger urged the council to move towards an open process and national search given the mixed reviews on Johnson’s performance.
“No one on the city council can say that he is the best candidate for the position. Why, because you don’t know. Because there is no way for you to know because this council did not gauge in an open, fair, equitable process to select a city manager,” said Klinger. “The responsible path to finding the best candidate is to commission a reputable, professional executive search agency that would do a nationwide canvass and bring back a vetted list of the best qualified candidate.”
He continued calling a process the correct way to hire a city manager and was responsible government.
“Tonight’s process degrades the city managers position to a little more than a political patronage job. Tonight’s process is also fundamentally unfair to Mr. Johnson who risks being sattled with the stigma of of being a political subordinate whos leadership and decisions will continue to be questioned. He deserves better than that. Most important, Antioch deserves a better process. The continued path over the last year is a disservice to the city.”
Diane Gibson-Gray, candidate for Antioch City Council District 1, spoke in favor of creating a process to find the best possible candidate.
“I don’t understand what the rush is. In less than 13-days, you could have a different council up there. Why can’t you just wait. What is the rush? He has a contract through December 12, 2022. The election is November 8. So if all remain the same, just put it on the agenda for after the election,” stated Gibson-Gray. “It just makes sense, I don’t understand the rush.”
With little to no discussion, the vote was taken with a 3-2 vote in support of Johnson.
This comes back to the council after a city council 3-2 vote in closed session on September 27 to appoint Johnson as the next city manager. The split 3-2 vote was Mayor Lamar Thorpe and councilmembers Tamisha Torres-Walker and Monica Wilson in support with Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica and councilmember Lori Ogorchock dissenting.
The vote came with no national search, application process or internal candidates considered. The council had met multiple times in closed session over the past few months on this appointment but took no action.
The hiring comes just weeks before election day as all city council candidates, which include: Diane Gibson Gray, Joy Motts, Shawn Pickett, Sandra White and Ogorchock (District 4) have called for a national search that is transparent and open to the public.
According to the Staff Report, if Johnson is terminated without good cause and does not secure comparable employment, his severance payment would be limited to 12-months of salary and health benefits.
The staff report also lists a termination date of October 26, 2023 (although that has yet to be decided), it also includes an automatic renewal contract unless the city gives Johnson a timely notice of non-renewal of at least 90-days.
Since being hired as interim city manager, Johnson has yet to answer questions regarding his past including the misleading the public on his resume at the time of his interim appointment, his past bankruptcy, foreclosure and judgment against him—its also has come to light that three employee complaints have been filed against him.
Johnson was appointed City of Antioch interim city manager in November of 2021 in a 3-2 vote after the retirement of then City Manager Ron Bernal. 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.
City Manager Background:
- May 2017: City of Antioch Names Ron Bernal New City Manager
- Sept. 7, 2021: Antioch City Manager to Retire at End of 2021
- Nov 5, 2021: Antioch Set to Hire Former San Francisco Police Captain as Interim City Manager
- Nov. 10, 2021: Antioch City Council Agrees to Hire Cornelius Johnson as Interim City Manager in 3-2 Vote
- Dec. 16, 2021: Antioch Mayor Announces Hiring of Interim City Manager
- Sept. 10, 2022: Antioch Council Takes No Action on Hiring Con Johnson as City Manager
- Sept, 27, 2022: Antioch City Council Agrees to Appoint Con Johnson as City Manager