Home Antioch Editorial: Antioch Deserves Transparency in Hiring of Next City Manager

Editorial: Antioch Deserves Transparency in Hiring of Next City Manager

By Mike Burkholder

by ECT

The Antioch City Council will hold a special meeting Friday to discuss the public employment for the hiring of Con Johnson as City Manager. This is less than 90-days before the November election.

This comes after a Monday press conference by Mayor Lamar Thorpe who announced Johnson would be appointed city manager while calling him the “perfect fit”. He also said upon hiring Johnson, Dr. Steve Ford would become police chief.

The reasoning given for a supersonic hiring of these two permanent positions was due to an Antioch Police Investigation where 10% of the department is under investigation by the FBI and Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office.

The mayor of Antioch continues to mislead the public and use false rhetoric full of half truths to push an agenda that further divides the city and his council. And lets not forget, whatever was going on within the Antioch Police Department, it occurred under the watch of Mayor Thorpe which seems to be forgotten during his press conferences.

It could also be argued that the mayor is simply deflecting away from his own DUI and other legal issues including sexual harassment claims against him while at Los Medanos Healthcare District and putting the focus on the Antioch Police Department investigation.

In speaking with both Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica and Councilmember Lori Ogorchock earlier this week, neither knew the mayor’s announcement prior to him calling for the special meeting.

If the council wanted to show leadership, not dictatorship, they would withhold the appointment of a city manager until after the November 8 election. They would also begin the process of hiring a consultant to seek out city manager in a national search.

After all, while the mayor calls Johnson a perfect fit, one can argue he is no more qualified than any other resident in Antioch after he was appointed with no experience aside from being a Lieutenant in the San Francisco Police Department. Or was it Captain? We still don’t know. That said, his misrepresentation on his resume should be enough to move on from him to a more qualified candidate going forward.

Furthermore, according to at least four sources, Mr. Johnson has had three public employee complaints filed against him since being appointed in December. While details will not be released due to this being a personnel matter, in the name of transparency the public has a right to know that the complaints have even been filed. Perhaps the mayor is rushing this process of hiring Johnson before these claims are made public? It’s anyone’s guess as to why the mayor is rushing this appointment.

Mr. Johnson is also erroneously spending funds he has no business spending.

For example, Antioch community members were set to host a Juneteenth event that was essentially free and paid for. Instead, due to ego of the Mayor, Johnson directed the city to spend $48,635 on the city sponsored event—including $37,000 from the city managers budget. Johnson also directed the police department to spend $20k on Community Day while moving the day and time to directly compete with a Stuff the Bus Backpack giveaway event. This is insane.

Johnson has essentially weaponized the city managers office into a political advocacy position. By the way, pettiness has no business in the city managers office.

Furthermore, the mayor is changing the rules of the game to fit his narrative to push Johnson when Rosanna Bayon Moore was hired as assistant city manager as part of a succession plan with the retiring of Ron Bernal last year—so the council is going to bypass a highly qualified woman, someone who has proven she can do her job, stay out of the politics, remain neutral, for a guy with no experience, completely political, and without a proper hiring process in place.

Nice job Mr. Mayor. Ask the District Attorney’s Office how that one worked out considering they just paid out $2.2 million to five women.

By moving forward with the Mayors plan, it ensures the residents of Antioch continue to receive no transparency and the city council failed not only to do its duty in finding the best qualified candidate, but even just performing the bare minimum due diligence. Antioch deserves much better.

Police Chief Hiring:

At this point, unlike Johnson, Dr. Steve Ford appears to be more of an asset than a liability. Ford is saying and doing all the right things. He is working on policy, attending community events, engaging with the community and working to improve transparency while attempting to rebuild the police department staffing levels.

The only knock on Ford is he is tied to the flawed appointment process of the knucklehead Mayor and Johnson—mostly because Johnson showcased his inexperience here in his attempt to fire then interim chief Tony Morefield. Had it been a transparency appointment following the “retirement” of former Chief Tammany Brooks, the community would likely have no issue with Ford.

In my opinion, Ford gets a pass from this nonsense occurring at city hall and should be given every chance to do his job without interference of the mayor or city council. Ford walked into a pile of you know what, he deserves the opportunity of time to clean it up and show what he can do.

Council Should Move Towards Formal Hiring Process

On Friday, the council should reject the mayors supersonic hiring plan based off false narrative and instead opt to begin the formal process to hire a city manager, something that should have started in January with a national search. Unfortunately for the Mayor and Johnson, a national search would likely highlight Johnson is not the best candidate for the job long-term.

By moving forward with a national search, it provides not only transparency, but gives the council some much needed credibility while giving the mayor a reality check that he doesn’t run the show, the council as a whole does.

Plus, by waiting until after the election it allows the next seated council the ability to make the final decision on who they want to work with. Sure, the mayor may pout on the delay, but both Councilmembers Tamisha Torres-Walker and Monica Wilson are up for election in the next 90-days and they should know better than to go along with the mayors cockamamie plan of using a behind closed door FBI investigation as justification–I would like to think they are smarter than this.

Finally,  it would behoove any candidate running for council to speak up rather than remain silent on this issue. Whether or not they support or disapprove of Johnson is not the point, they should be urging a transparent and an open process given the lack of urgency in the hiring of a city manager 90-days before an election.

By moving forward with the hiring of  council is setting itself up for failure on many level including a contract that will likely pay Johnson a significant amount of money if the next council lets him go after they are seated.

Antioch, you deserve much better than what you are being given and you certainly deserve the truth. That only comes with a transparent process.

Antioch Special City Council Meeting

  • 4:30 pm – Closed Door
  • 5:00 pm – Special Meeting
  • Agenda – click here

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The Trutj Aug 26, 2022 - 9:04 am

Unfortunately Ms. Wilson and Ms. Walker-Torres will vote with Lamar every time no matter what. And I guarantee they spoke about it prior to him announcing it. He just leaves the other two out of it because he knows he doesn’t need them.

Mayor Thorpe has said he will do what ever he wants until someone stops him. Nobody is stopping him so this is what you get Antioch. If you don’t vote this is what you get.

And as for Con and Chief Ford I think everything needed was said. Get Con out he will cost the city millions if nothing else.

Arbne Aug 29, 2022 - 2:44 am

I believe that the Interim City Manager is on a monthly contract, so terminating his contract will not involve andy type of “Golden Parachute” payout.

ECT Aug 29, 2022 - 5:04 am

If he is hired on a permanent basis, it would.

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