Antioch Mayor Thorpe introduces acting city manager, assures residents council’s priorities will continue, takes racially charged swipe at residents, swipes at APD

Mayor Lamar Thorpe was joined by City department heads and Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock at a press conference announcing Forrest Ebbs (rear, right of Thorpe) as interim city manager following the council vote to place City Manager Con Johnson on administrative leave Friday morning, March 17, 2023. Video screenshot.

APOA responds in support of Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs’ appintment

“…this city has one mayor and one council that determines where we go as a city.”

“I want to assure Antioch residents, our city employees and partners that the City’s leadership remains focused and united on our top priority of increasing our overall quality of life and ensuring public safety.”

“…the status quo in this city is so entrenched in the idea that Antioch is a place for a few and not a place for everyone to enjoy.”

“Police reform shall continue to be our top priority…I inherited a (police) department that operated under the idea that they reported to no one.” – Mayor Thorpe

Antioch Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs is the new interim city manager. Source: LinkedIn

By Allen D. Payton

Following the special Antioch City Council closed session meeting, Friday morning, March 17 2023, in which they unanimously voted to place City Manager Con Johnson on administrative leave, Mayor Lamar Thorpe held a press conference to introduce Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs as the acting city manager. The mayor wanted to also assure the public that the City would continue to work on the council’s priorities and was joined by all the City’s department heads and District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock, whom he thanked. He also took swipes at members of the public and the Antioch Police Department.

Thorpe livestreamed the press conference on his official Facebook page and provided the Herald with a copy of his following prepared remarks:

“The City Council has appointed Forrest Ebbs as the city’s acting city manager until further notice.

I want to personally thank Forrest Ebbs for stepping up to hold the ship steady as we navigate our way through some unexpected changes. I also want to thank our city department heads for remaining steadfast in our resolve to continue moving this city forward regardless of the situation.”

Thorpe the mentioned Ebbs’ education and professional background. (See Ebbs’ LinkedIn profile for details)

The mayor continued with his statement saying, “On Wednesday, I met with all of our department heads minus one to look them in the eye and remind them that they are all valuable members of our administration and that they have my full support and the support of this council.

I want to assure Antioch residents, our city employees and partners that the City’s leadership remains focused and united on our top priority of increasing our overall quality of life and ensuring public safety.

Antioch’s government continues to be open for business and working for the people.

Yes, it’s normal to have policy disagreements, yes, it’s normal to have ideological differences and yes, it’s normal to be on opposite ends of political disagreements.

These items, however, do not change that this city has one mayor and one council that determines where we go as a city. We’ve set priorities and we’ve determined our goals and we’re committed to them until the voters decide it’s time to change course.

I recognize that we can’t realize our vision without a united team of administrators, which is why I’m proud to be standing here with our department heads. They have my back and I have their back.

Every day, I’m bombarded with some of the vilest and most disgusting racially motivated attacks. All you have to do is head back to Tuesday’s council meeting to see it. (Thorpe was referring to comments by former Antioch Councilman Ralph Hernandez about equity and the racial makeup of the city council)

Why? Because the status quo in this city is so entrenched in the idea that Antioch is a place for a few and not a place for everyone to enjoy.

This is why it’s so important to find like-minded partners as part of our administration. We do not have to always agree, but we absolutely have to be on the same page on the idea that Antioch’s government will work to represent every single resident.

Gone are the days when the few spoke for the all.

The department heads have assured me that they are committed to this mission and that they will continue moving forward with clarity, and a focus on delivering key services.

This month is a particularly heavy month as we prepare for the budget process under the leadership of Finance Director Dawn Merchant. I anticipate this process will be short and smooth and that it will be a reaffirmation of the long-term goals and priorities we set two years ago.

Within that budget process, we will be able to share with you that, while other cities are worried about their budgets, Antioch continues to be healthy, strong, and balanced.

Later this month, under the leadership of Director Tasha Johnson, we’ll launch the city’s first 24/7 crisis response team, the first city to do so in Contra Costa County and take control of Executive Inn so that we can launch the City’s first transitional housing program for our unhoused brothers and sisters.

Police reform shall continue to be our top priority especially given the unfortunate circumstance of ten percent of our police force being under FBI investigation.” (Actually, only 7 current officers out of the 99 sworn on the force are under investigation)

“United we have worked terribly hard to curb violent crime and we refuse to turn back the clock. In my first two years as mayor and with a progressive majority on the council, overall violent crime was lower than at any time between 2013 and 2020. In my second year as mayor, in 2022, the murder rate went down by 25% from the previous year.

If you recall, when I became mayor, I inherited a department that operated under the idea that they reported to no one.

A big reason why there have been so many changes within our city, including today’s change, is that every single city department, including the police, must report to the city manager under the umbrella of one city.

We are not the wild west, and we will ensure that every single department is accountable to the residents of our city. As you can see, the very nature of our work makes it so that disagreements are very public. That’s a democracy, and I embrace it.

However, the public nature of those disagreements does not, in any way, change our course. The work continues. The services will be delivered. The streets will be cleaned. And our streets will be safe. That is our continued commitment to you, the residents of the city of Antioch.

Thank you.”

Thorpe then repeated his statement in Spanish.

He then took questions, the first being “why did you vote to remove Mr. Johnson?”

Thorpe responded, “As you know…I’m not going to comment on personnel matters.”

He was then asked, “Are you going to support a national search for a replacement?”

“We are going to go through this process. If and when we get to a process like that, of course, I would,” the mayor responded. “It’s too early to speculate as we get through this process, first.”

Questions for Thorpe Go Unanswered

Since the Herald was not informed of the press conference beforehand, questions were emailed to the mayor after, asking since he had prepared his remarks before today’s closed session meeting, if he already have his mind made up how he was going to vote on the matter of placing Johnson on paid leave. Thorpe was also asked for clarification that Johnson is on paid administrative leave since the announcement didn’t include the word paid. Finally, he was pressed further asking what are the next steps in the process, if the council has to wait until any possible lawsuit or investigation of Johnson is completed before terminating him and then beginning the hiring process for a new city manager.

Thorpe did not respond before publication time. Please check back later for any responses from him or any other updates to this report.

3:17 pm UPDATE: The Antioch Police Officers Association issued a statement Friday afternoon in support of Ebbs’ appointment as acting city manager. On their Facebook page they wrote, “The APOA has learned of the appointment of Forrest Ebbs as acting City Manager. We look forward to having a good working relationship with him moving forward as we all seek to work together towards a safer community. We hope that together we can support the vision and mission that Chief Ford is continuing to implement at APD.”

 

 

 

 

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Thorpe press conf announcing Ebbs as ICM 031723


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