After three failed attempts to get the City of Antioch to release emails in regard to the firing of interim Antioch Police Chief Tony Morefield, emails have been provided showing Morefiled being terminated and then retracted an hour later.
According to the source, who did not want to be identified, the two emails were provided and occurred within an hour and a half of one another on February 24—a day after Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe held a press conference announcing Dr. Steve Ford as being named interim police chief. Ford’s hire is pending him passing a background check.
Ford was included in the Letter of Termination and his personal email address was used.
Since Morefield serves in an interim position, should be be terminated as police chief, he would revert back to his Captain position within the police department.
An official public records request was made on March 4 seeking:
- Copies of all emails associated with the termination of acting police chief Tony Morefield; and
- Copies/communications between Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe, Con Johnson and Steve Ford prior to the termination of acting chief Morefield”
On March 14 , waiting until the last day to respond, the city denied the request acknowledging that records do exist, but were deemed client-attorney privilege and a personnel matter.
The city has not responded to a March 14 rebuttal of how this was not privileged emails once Johnson included subordinates of Morefield and Ford, who is not a city of Antioch employee.
Nor did the city respond to a request again to release the emails on March 22 after Mayor pro Tem Mike Barbanica issued a video citing how the city was wrong in withholding the emails and even provided information on the emails–that video has since been deleted.
In the video, Barbanica highlighted how the information was not privileged based on his legal teams review.
Here are the two emails which were provided by a source:
On February 24 at 8:49 am – sent by Interim City Manager Con Johnson to Interim Police Chief Tony Morefield under the headline “Letter of Termination”
Effective immediately, your employment with the City of Antioch Police Department as the Interim Chief of Police has been terminated. Please cease and desist with any further duties or responsibilities that are associated with the interim Chief of Police position.
I want to thank you for your service while serving as City of Antioch interim Chief of Police. I wish you the best in your future professional endeavors. “
A second email was sent at 10:05 am by Johnson to Morefield at 10:05 am
Due to the personnel sensitivity, I am immediate tracking the letter of termination to Captain Tony Morefield
Cornelius H Johnson
Interim City Manager”
Note – he used the word tracking, assume he meant retracting. Only two emails have been provided and its unclear how many others related to this matter were sent.
The Antioch Police Department POA was reached for comment on the firing of Morefield and declined to comment at this time.
Controlling The Narrative Out Of City Hall and Silencing Department Heads…Ridiculous!
On March 22, Barbanica accused Antioch City Council of controlling information and bottle-necking information from the public. He said he could no longer reach out to city staff and have a conversation. He could talk, but they could not respond. He shared how councilmembers now have to communicate.
“I am the district representative for District 2, if we have a shooting in District 2, if we have an issue with code enforcement in District 2, I cant pick up the phone and make a phone call and speak to someone at the police department and say you know what the people in my district are concerned with what is going on, can you tell me what is going on. I can’t pick up the phone and say I have a problem with an encampment over here,” said Barbanica. “What I have to do as a councilmember, under the new rules of the interim city manager, the new rules, the department heads are not allowed to talk to us. The city manager can’t tell us who we can talk to, but he can tell department heads they not to talk to. It’s a way to control the narrative. How do you control the narrative, you silence people and don’t let them talk.”
He provided an example about a recent shooting on Delta Fair where he could not get information. He shared the new process is he has to send an email to the interim city managers assistant. That assistant will check everyones calendars and make sure everybody’s free and can talk and then set up a time where he could meet with the police chief and have a conversation but the interim city manager or designee has to be present during the conversation.
“You want to talk about controlling the narrative and bottlenecking the information coming out to you the people who live in this community, that is what you do,” said Barbanica.
He continued by saying, “When you are scared of the narrative that is going out, what do you do, you lock it down and you control it. This has to stop,” said Barbanica who called it ridiculous.
CC on the emails include: Nickie Mastay, Thomas Lloyd Smith, Trevor Schnitzius, Steve Ford (a yahoo email address), Steven Aiello, Lamar Thorpe, Monica Wilson, Tamisha Torres Walker, Lori Ogorchock, Mike Barbanica, Rosanna Bayon Moore,
The 102 officers Mike speaks about INCLUDES detectives, sergeants, lieutenants, captains, detectives, traffic enforcement and the Chief of Police … so in essence, there are ONLY about 40 officers to work the streets —- NOT ENOUGH.
This has been an ongoing issue for about the last 15 years or so. Measure C, Measure W were band-aids, and not the “end all solutions” their campaigns touted them to be. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any problems with paying a 1/2 cent more in sales tax, but I never bought into the argument those measures were the next best thing since sliced bread when it comes to police staffing levels.
Officers leaving — well, officers will leave a department for a variety of reasons. Early in the 2000s quite a few officers left Antioch for Piedmont PD, less workload — pay was about the same. I mean officers can only work so much overtime (forced), have days off cancelled because of a lack of forethought and planning on the city’s part.
Potential officers removing themselves from the hiring process — well, many other departments are hiring, it is a very competitive process, they are going to go to departments that offer more opportunities, pay/benefits, work/life balance and where they are NOT coming into a shift down 20 calls for service, and with the potential of getting forced over(time) every third shift.
It can also be said, sometimes a department is better off not spending the time or resources on someone who is on the fence about “pulling out of the process”.
Frankly, to be quite honest, unless one sits down with those applicants and finds out why they pulled their applications, we will never find out. It’s only speculation as to why they are choosing not to remain with the application process.
Antioch PD, to its detriment, is rapidly becoming a “training ground” for new officers — in other words, they get a ton of experience rapidly in a very short time, and go elsewhere to departments that are not necessarily “training grounds”. These are not “bad apples” wanting to go elsewhere, they just don’t see any good opportunities on the “horizon” by staying in Antioch — limited opportunities for specialized assignments, etc.
Pittsburg PD had in the past a reputation for being a “training ground”. That is until the councils realized of the attrition rates among its officers were very high, and decided to try and do something about it.
This is a complex problem that cannot be solved by just “hiring” cops, because there will always be those cops who want to go elsewhere, resign from police work, retire or just plan get “canned”.
NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE has come up with the perfect Unicorns and Rainbows solution to attracting people to become a cop, and once employed, keeping them employed.
After reading both emails I am going to suggest they were written by two different people. I think the first one was not supposed to be sent and the 2nd one was the “tracking” after the city manager realized he screwed up.
Concerned, immediately and retracting. How does someone send out something like this?
So there is a convict and Mayor that has a pending criminal case on the council and incompetence at City Hall.
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