Archive for the ‘City Council’ Category

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

Friday, March 17th, 2023

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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No luck of the Irish for city manager as Antioch Council unanimously places him on administrative leave in St. Patrick’s Day vote

Friday, March 17th, 2023

Antioch City Manager Con Johnson was in attendance for the announcement by City Attorney Smith that by a unanimous council vote he had been placed on administrative leave during a special city council closed session Friday morning, March 17, 2023. Video screenshot.

Appoints Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs as acting CM

Con Johnson attends meeting; Thorpe holds press conference to issue statement, doesn’t invite local media, again

By Allen D. Payton

Antioch City Manager Cornelius “Con” Johnson was placed on administrative leave on a 5-0 council vote Friday, March 17, 2023.

The Antioch City Council held a special closed session meeting Friday morning to discuss City Manager Con Johnson’s fate. There were no public comments prior to them adjourning from open session. But before leaving the Council Chambers, Mayor Lamar Thorpe asked the department heads to be on stand-by on the 3rd Floor to be available should they be called into the meeting in the Manager’s Conference Room.

The council discussed two items on the agenda including a public employee performance evaluation of the city manager and possible action. The second item was discussion and possible vote to appoint an acting city manager. The meeting was held to correct the council’s action on Tuesday night, March 14, when they placed Johnson on administrative leave, immediately, because the matter was not agendized properly. The item for that closed session meeting only mentioned potential litigation.

Friday’s meeting began at 10:00 a.m. and the council members returned to public session at 11:00 a.m. with Johnson in attendance. City Attorney Thomas L. Smith reported out that the city council on motion by Councilmember Barbanica and seconded by Councilmember Ogorchock the council voted to place the city manager on administrative leave. It passed 5-0.

The council action follows two recent actions by Johnson in which he fired former City Engineer and Public Works Director John Samuelson in December, which is believed to have been a wrongful termination in violation of the City’s MOU with management staff, and what might have caused the City to face “anticipated litigation, significant exposure to litigation”, as described for Tuesday’s closed session agenda item. Johnson also fired the City’s former public information officer, Rolando Bonilla, following a firestorm with Police Chief Steve Ford and the Antioch Police Officers Association, over a press release including comments about his officers that Ford said he never made. Yet, Bonilla claims Johnson authorized that press release.

During his report out of the Friday closed session, Smith then said, “on the second item on motion by Barbanica and seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Torres-Walker the motion was to appoint Forrest Ebbs acting city manager.” It passed on a 5-0 vote.

Ebbs is currently the director of the City’s Community Development Department.

Following roll call and a vote to adjourn, Thorpe ended the meeting at 11:03 a.m.

The mayor then spoke to the media during a press conference following the meeting to issue a statement in front of a podium that was already set up in the foyer between the council chambers and city hall prior to the closed session. Unfortunately, the Herald was not informed ahead of time that was going to occur and was not in attendance.

Barbanica said he was also not aware of the planned press conference being held after the closed session meeting until he saw the podium when he arrived for the meeting and asked city staff about it. The District 2 Councilman said they told him it was for after the meeting. Barbanica did not stay for the press conference and could not provide details of what Thorpe shared.

Asked if Johnson attended the closed session, after consulting with the city attorney, Barbanica responded, “as with most city council closed sessions the city manager and city attorney would be present. Also, it would not be uncommon for an employee being evaluated by the council to be present during the evaluation. However, if the council was considering any personnel action the employee would not be present for that deliberation or vote.”

Thorpe livestreamed the press conference on his official Facebook page and introduced Ebbs and his background. The mayor, joined by all the City’s department heads and District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock, who was the only other council member in attendance. Please see the follow up article for details on the press conference.

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Antioch Council approves $326K for outside law firms, personnel investigation since Dec. 1

Thursday, March 16th, 2023

Largest amount spent to defend city against lawsuit by natural gas pipeline companies

By Allen D. Payton

In an attempt to determine the reason the Antioch City Council voted to place City Manager Con Johnson on paid administrative leave during their meeting Tuesday night, March 14, 2023, a review of the past three months of Council Warrants, which are the City’s expenses per department the council votes on was conducted. Between Dec. 1, 2022 and March 2, 2023, almost $321,000 was spent on outside legal counsel and over $5,000 on a personnel investigation. Antioch City Attorney Warrants 12-01 thru 12-29-22     Antioch City Attorney Warrants 12-30 thru 01-12-23    Antioch City Attorney Warrants 1-13 thru 2-2-23    Antioch City Attorney & Human Resources Warrants 2-2 thru 3-2-23

Antioch City Attorney & Human Resources Warrants 02-02 thru 03-02-23. Source: City of Antioch

On Tuesday’s meeting agenda it shows in the Council Warrants report Feb. 2-March 2, 2023 under the City Attorney category, $96,252.37 was paid for Legal Services Rendered to 11 law firms, and under the Human Resources category $5,166.25 for Investigative Fees paid to Barry Aninag Investigations. Mr. Aninag’s LinkedIn profile shows his company “offers independent, impartial, and thorough investigations into allegations of employee misconduct, harassment, and hostile work environments.”

Antioch City Attorney Warrants 01-13 thru 02-02-23

The Council Warrants on the Feb. 14, 2023 agenda for Jan. 13-Feb. 2, 2023 show $41,118.43 for legal services; the Jan. 24th council meeting agenda shows $41,930.76 in legal services for Dec. 30, 2022-Jan. 12, 2023 and the Jan. 10th council meeting agenda shows $141,472.97 paid for legal services incurred Dec. 1-29, 2022.

That’s a total of $320,774.53 in legal services plus the cost of the personnel investigation in the past three months for a grand total of $325,940.78.

Antioch City Attorney Warrants 12-30 thru 01-12-23

Questions for City Attorney, Acting City Manager

That information and questions were sent Wednesday to City Attorney Smith and Acting City Manager Cortez, and copied to the council members, City Finance Director Dawn Merchant and City Treasurer Lauren Posada asking for what cases are the expenses and if any of them or the investigation is related to Johnson. Smith and Cortez were also asked if it is normal for the City to spend over $100,000 per month on average for outside legal counsel.

Councilman Barbanica, who said he spoke with City Attorney Smith who said, “the bulk of this ($108,248.82) is to Meyers Nave to defend the City against the litigation on the CRC natural gas pipeline from the 3-2 council vote to deny the renewal of the franchise agreement.”

“Which I voted against, by the way,” the councilman added.

Antioch City Attorney Warrants 12-01 thru 12-29-22

“The payments to Hanson Bridgett are for ongoing labor and employment investigations and the Telecom Law Firm is for dealing with leases related to cell towers and other telecommunications in the city,” Barbanica continued.

The total over the past three months paid to Hanson Bridgett LLP was $74,132.59 and $9,101.50 to Telecom Law Firm PC. In addition, $64,362.70 was paid to Liebert Cassidy Whitmore. According to their website the firm “provides unparalleled education, training, litigation and advisory services to California’s public agencies, educational institutions and nonprofits.”

Smith was asked which of those services they are providing to the City of Antioch.

“A city our size has an understaffed attorney’s office with two attorneys and one assistant. So, a lot of this has to be farmed out because of that. If you look at Vallejo and Richmond, they have more than double the number of attorneys and assistants than we do,” he added. “It’s a lot of money.”

Smith did not respond by publication time. Please check back for any updates to this report.



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Antioch Council to meet about city manager in special closed session Friday morning

Thursday, March 16th, 2023

With correct description for agenda item

By Allen D. Payton

As previously reported, Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe has called a special closed session council meeting for tomorrow, Friday morning, March 17, 2023 to discuss and possibly vote on two items regarding embattled City Manager Con Johnson who was placed on administrative leave Tuesday night.

The council, with Thorpe and Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker absent during Tuesday’s closed session, on a 3-0 vote placed Johnson on administrative leave, immediately. But the notice for that meeting only described it as “CONFERENCE WITH LEGAL COUNSEL – ANTICIPATED LITIGATION – Significant exposure to litigation pursuant to California Government Code section 54956.9(b): One case” not mentioning anything about a public employee or the city manager, specifically.

Although the mayor sets the agenda for each meeting, Thorpe posted on his official Facebook page on Wednesday about the council action, “legally they were procedurally wrong”.

The agenda for Friday’s meeting, posted today, Thursday, March 16 on the City Clerk’s webpage shows, first the council will discuss PUBLIC EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE EVALUATION AND POSSIBLE ACTION – This closed session is authorized pursuant to Government Code section 54957(b). Title: City Manager.  ACC agenda 031723

Second, the council will discuss a PUBLIC EMPLOYEE APPOINTMENT – This closed session is authorized pursuant to Government Code section 54957(b). Title: Acting City Manager.

The meeting will first begin inside the Council Chambers at 200 H Street, and although it’s a special meeting, Public Comments on the two items will be allowed before the council adjourns into closed session. Following that, the city attorney will report out any action the council has taken.

The open session portion of the meeting can be viewed livestream on the City’s website.

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Antioch Council places city manager on administrative leave, mayor calls special Friday meeting to “correct this action”

Wednesday, March 15th, 2023

Councilmembers Barbanica, Wilson and Ogorchock made the decision during closesd session Tuesday night, March 14, 2023. Video screenshot

Thorpe claims council members were “procedurally wrong”

Torres-Walker says council needs to have nationwide search for new city manager, assistant city manager ; APOA President issues statement in support of police chief

By Allen D. Payton

Cornelius “Con” Johnson.

The Antioch City Council placed City Manager Cornelius “Con” Johnson on administrative leave, immediately it was reported by City Attorney Thomas L. Smith following the closed session meeting, Tuesday night. He said the council met to discuss one case of “anticipated litigation, significant exposure to litigation”. The vote was 3-0 on a motion by District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica, seconded by District 3 Councilman Lori Ogorchock and passed with the vote of District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson. (See beginning of council meeting video)

Johnson was absent from the meeting because he was ill according to Barbanica, who also left shortly after the beginning of the regular meeting due to having a medical procedure earlier in the day.

Both Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker and Mayor Lamar Thorpe were absent from the closed session. Without explanation for her absence, she later apologized for being late, having arrived just as the regular meeting was beginning. Thorpe, who was traveling back from a transportation conference in Washington, D.C. and his flight was delayed, also apologized for his tardiness. At the end of the meeting he said, “I ran out of the plane” with a laugh. He arrived about 7:55 p.m. wearing a hoody.

Wilson, the council’s longest serving member, led the meeting until Thorpe arrived, because Torres-Walker, whose responsibility it was, said she hadn’t been feeling well. Wilson pointed out the fact that it was an all-woman council during Women’s History Month

Regarding Johnson being placed on paid leave Thorpe said, “I know that some changes occurred, today at closed session. I do trust my colleagues in whatever action that they took, and I’ll try to support as best as possible, and I’ll get caught up on what’s going on. Change happens. You have to embrace it and massage it and try to get the best possible outcome.”

The City’s Human Resources Director Ana Cortez will serve as the acting city manager in Johnson’s absence until the council can appoint an interim city manager. She fulfilled that role last week when Johnson appointed her to it while he was out on bereavement leave.

Because it is a personnel matter neither the council members nor city staff can provide any details. However, and although Johnson is still in his position, during Tuesday’s meeting Torres-Walker twice called for a nationwide search for a new city manager as well as a new assistant city manager.

Speculation by Antioch residents in comments on social media were that the council’s action was related to the recent firestorm between Police Chief Steve Ford, the City’s former PIO, Rolando Bonilla and his issuing a press release with comments by the chief taking a swipe at his own officers which he never made. As previously reported Bonilla claims Johnson authorized the press release. The PIO’s contract was later terminated by Johnson. (See related articles here and here)

APOA President Issues Statement

Antioch Police Officers Association President Rick Hoffman issued the following statement about the matter Tuesday night out of concern that Ford may be the city council’s next target for termination: “While the dismissal of the CM (city manager) comes as a surprise to us, our main concern is whether council has any intention of replacing Chief Ford. We want the council to know that we fully support Chief Ford and his vision for the department.”

Thorpe Says Council Action “Procedurally Wrong”, Calls Special Meeting Friday to Correct It, Possibly Hire Interim City Manager

In a post on his official Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon, Thorpe issued the following statement about the matter: “At the Tuesday, March 15, 2023, City Council Meeting, the City Manager was placed on paid administrative leave. Vice Mayor (Mayor Pro Tem) Tamisha Torres-Walker and I were not present for the vote as my flight from Washington, DC was delayed for several hours.

I know my colleagues intended to proceed in the best interest of the City of Antioch and within their authority. However, while they may have believed their actions were correct, legally they were procedurally wrong.

In an effort to allow the Council to express its will, I’ll be calling a special meeting for Friday, March 17, 2023, at 10:00 am to correct this action and, if needed, potentially appoint an Acting City Manager.

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

Barbanica responded to Thorpe’s claims saying, “We had the city attorney in the room, who attends all meetings, and he made the announcement at the end. It’s unfortunate the mayor wasn’t at the meeting. If there was anything procedurally incorrect that needs clarifying, I’m willing to consider it. But I think all of us on council need to focus on during the right thing for the city.”

“I believe that the council, when presented with certain information, has a duty to act,” he added. “If it’s a matter of the item not being agendized properly the mayor needs to remember he sets the agenda as he has reminded the public time and time again.”

City Attorney Smith and Thorpe were then sent via email the mayor’s announcement, copying the other council members and City Clerk Ellie Householder, asking them what the procedural error was and if it’s the fact the agenda item didn’t mention a possible discipline of a public employee. In addition, they were asked who decided on that terminology for the agenda item and who normally decides on the terminology used for closed session agenda items.

Please check back later for any updates to this report.


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Antioch council to consider liquor store approval appeal, forming new, reorg two other dep’ts

Monday, March 13th, 2023

Will also consider forming Human Rights and Racial Equity Ad Hoc Committee, appeal of Planning Commission’s denial of tree removal, $110K for July 4th celebration

By Allen D. Payton

During their regular meeting Tuesday night, March 14, 2023, the Antioch City Council will consider the appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of a new liquor store on Somersville Road and the appeal of the commission’s denial of a tree removal on W. 5th Street. The council will also consider forming a new engineering department and reorganizing the public works and community development departments.

In other council business, they will consider spending $110,000 to organize and pay for the annual Independence Day Celebration, including fireworks on the river, and forming Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker’s proposed Human Rights and Racial Equity Ad Hoc Committee, with the task to form a commission of the same name.

Somersville Liquor Store Appeal

According to the staff report, on October 12, 2022, Gurmej Singh applied for a Use Permit to operate a new liquor store at 2651 Somersville Road in City Council District 2. The application was reviewed by City staff, including the Antioch Police Department, and outside agencies, and was forwarded to the Planning Commission for consideration. On February 15, 2023, the Planning Commission voted 4-3 to approve the Use Permit for the liquor store.

Then, on Feb. 21st, District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson held a press conference and called for the appeal of the commission’s decision and a 45-day urgency ordinance to halt approval of new liquor stores to give staff time to develop a permanent ban on all future liquor stores in the city. However, at the special council meeting on Thursday, Feb. 23rd with Torres-Walker absent, the proposed urgency ordinance died on a 2-2 vote.

That same day, an appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision was filed with the City Clerk by Kathryn Wade who lives about two miles away from the proposed site. In the reasons for her appeal she wrote, “we do not need another liquor store in the Somserville area. We already have three (3) liquors less than a mile between them and we need better services and businesses in that area. The liquor doesn’t bring any value to the community.”

Also, according to the staff report, The site is located within Census Tract 3072.05, which currently has three other offsale Type 21 licenses and a population of 8,483. The current ratio is one outlet for each 2,828 persons. This fourth outlet would create a ratio of one outlet for each 2,121 persons. The average for Contra Costa County is one outlet for each 1,773 persons. As such, the location is not considered unduly concentrated based on outlets per resident and a finding of public convenience and necessity is not required. the other outlets in Census Tract 3072.05 are as follows:

  • 7-Eleven at 2301 Buchanan Road
  • ampm at 2610 Contra Loma Boulevard
  • Wine & Liquor at 2958 Delta Fair Boulevard

The council can either vote to grant the appeal which will deny the use permit or deny the appeal and approve it.

City of Antioch proposed 2023 July 4th Celebration budget. Source: City staff report.

Funds for Independence Day Celebration

At their last regular meeting, with Wilson and Torres-Walker both absent, the council voted 3-0 to table spending $110,000 of City funds to pay for the costs of the annual Independence Day Celebration on July 4th. The council will consider the matter, again. But a vote to remove the item from the table should be required before the council can actually vote on the proposed expenditure.

Human Rights and Racial Equity Ad Hoc Committee

The final agenda item of the meeting will be a vote to form a new Human Rights and Racial Equity Ad Hoc Committee. According to the city staff report, the committee of two council members would “work with the city manager and the city attorney to propose an ordinance forming the…commission” of the same name, “which would work to promote mutual, respect, understanding and tolerance among all persons within the City.

The Commission would proactively engage in research, action planning, education, and community outreach to advance the rights of all persons to have an equal opportunity to live, work, and prosper within the City.

The Commission would work to build a community where relationships among diverse people are valued by all, the voices of underrepresented groups are heard, discrimination is not tolerated, and residents can work together to resolve issues concerning discrimination and alienation.

The Human Rights and Racial Equity Commission could also plan, promote, and develop community-oriented education programs and events to foster positive human relations, equal opportunity, and greater understanding and appreciation of the City’s cultural, ethnic, and racial diversity. The proposed educational programs and events developed by the Human Rights and Racial Equity Commission would be submitted to the City Council prior to the adoption of the budget for the fiscal year in which the proposed educational programs and events are planned to be held.

Access to remedies and resolutions under existing state and federal laws addressing unlawful discrimination may also be enhanced by providing a local forum to hear and work towards the advancement of human rights and racial equity goals.”

Public Comments

Members of the public wishing to speak on an item must do so in person.  If you wish to provide a written public comment, you may email the City Clerk’s Department at, by 3:00 p.m. the day of the City Council meeting. Written public comments received by 3:00 p.m. the day of the City Council Meeting will be shared with the City Council before the meeting; entered into the public record; retained on file by the City Clerk’s Office; and available to the public upon request. Written public comments will not be read during the City Council meeting.

The meeting begins at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers at 200 H Street, in historic, downtown Rivertown. It can also be viewed via livestream on the City’s website or either on Comcast local cable access channel 24 or AT&T U-verse channel 99.



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Following firestorm with police over false information in press release Antioch public information officer fired

Wednesday, March 1st, 2023

Barbanica confirms; Ogorchock reiterates call for investigation of Rolando Bonilla’s recent actions; Bonilla claimed city manager authorized press release

Antioch’s former contracted PIO, Rolando Bonilla. Source:

By Allen D. Payton

In the wake of a recent firestorm with the Antioch police chief and his officers caused by the City’s Public Information Officer Rolando Bonilla, City Manager Con Johnson terminated Bonilla’s contract, it was confirmed, today. According to District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica, who spoke with Johnson Wednesday afternoon, the city manager ended the PIO’s contract in the past few days. Since September 2019 Bonilla was paid $8,000 per month for his work in Antioch through his position as Chief Strategy Advisor with San Jose-based Voler Strategic Advisors, according to his contract and his LinkedIn profile. However, a search on the company’s website resulted in no information about him.

As previously reported, Bonilla issued a press release to KRON-4 News on Friday, Feb. 17, which he claimed Johnson authorized, attributing a false quote to Police Chief Steve Ford that took a swipe at the Antioch Police Officers Association claiming their previous statements critical of Mayor Lamar Thorpe and Bonilla were “circus like antics”. In addition, the press release claimed Bonilla worked with Ford and his team “to develop and distribute a letter to our community where the Antioch Police Department takes full responsibility for the recent burglaries.” But Lt. Michael Mellone, who is in charge of the department’s Community Engagement Unit that includes their own PIO, Ashley Crandell, claimed that wasn’t true, either. He then issued another press release to the Bay Area media asking them to check with him or Crandell on any information they might receive from Bonilla regarding police matters in the city and denying Bonilla worked on the apology press release.

The police department didn’t take responsibility for the burglaries, instead apologized for the slow response times.

But Johnson did not inform at least two of the council members, including Barbanica and District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock, who asked for an investigation of the recent incident and for Bonilla to be let go during Tuesday night’s council meeting. According to Ogorchock, Johnson informed city staff of Bonilla’s termination by email but did not include the mayor or council members.

“I was told an email was sent out,” she said. “I asked if anyone on council had been added to the email and I was told ‘no’. But we didn’t have to be according to what the city attorney told me.”

“Rolando Bonilla needs to be investigated because the press release he sent to KRON-4 was not only impersonating a police officer, but the police chief of Antioch,” Ogorchock exclaimeed. “That’s why I said what I did last night. I believe not only Antioch needs to investigate it but the district attorney needs to investigate it. Whoever authorized that press release needs to be held accountable.”

Questions for City Manager Go Unanswered

Questions were sent late Tuesday night to the city manager, and copying all five council members and City Attorney Thomas L. Smith asking to verify if Bonilla had been terminated from his position as the City’s Public Information Officer and if so, when did that happen and what was the reason.

In addition, Johnson was asked for a copy of his communication with city staff members about the matter. Finally, he was asked if he will be issuing a Request for Proposal for a new City PIO, assigning the responsibilities to an existing staff member or hire a city employee to fill the position.

Neither Johnson nor the other three council members responded as of publication time on Wednesday at 7:25 p.m.


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Antioch Council learns about micro-housing program for city’s homeless residents

Wednesday, March 1st, 2023

Architectural renderings by Shelterwerk of micro-homes planned for Hope Village at Grace Presbyterian Church in Walnut Creek. Source: Hope Solutions

Includes tiny homes and ADU’s

By Allen D. Payton

During their meeting Tuesday night, the Antioch City Council was provided a presentation on an effort to bring tiny homes to Antioch and the two-year Partnership for the Bay’s Future Breakthrough Grant to fund the effort to get them approved in the city. The proposal includes micro-home cottages on faith owned land plus Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) on privately owned residential property.

The agencies are the Multi-Faith Action Coalition (formerly Contra Costa Interfaith Housing) and the Pleasant Hill-based Hope Solutions with help from the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) Bay Area.

“Manufactured micro-homes are less costly than stick-built homes,” said Meredith Rupp, a Fellow with Partnership for the Bay’s Future.

They have identified 41 sites in Antioch totaling 75 acres. But regulatory changes are needed. They will work with Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs on that before bringing to the city council for consideration.

“Our preliminary vision is to develop a library of pre-approved plans…ready, off-the-shelf for homeowners to use,” said Jasmine Tarkoff, also of Hope Solutions.

A Resident Empowerment Program is the “third pillar” of the effort including mental health services and support for job training, and other “wrap-around” services, shared Deborah Carney, of Hope Solutions and an Antioch resident.

According to the Partnership for the Bay’s Future website, the Breakthrough Grants program is “to help communities pass equitable housing policy. Selected local governments will receive a dynamic, mission-driven fellow who will work on community-driven local policy in affordable housing production and preservation. The Partnership will also provide two years of grant funding to community partners to engage and activate the local community. The whole Breakthrough Grant cohort will have access to a flexible pool of funding for technical assistance to meet their policy goals. The value of this support is about $500,000 per jurisdiction.”

Examples of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s). Source: Partnership for the Bay’s Future

Father Robert Rien of St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Antioch spoke in favor of the program. “I have seen homelessness right up front. We have had a very strong concern about those who are not as blessed us to have homes. One of the issues that has really burned for me are the number of families living out of their cars. The Antioch school district has 235 families living out of their vehicles. We have a number of veterans living along the river.”

His parish was instrumental in building Tabora Gardens Senior Apartments located on Tabora Drive at James Donlon Blvd.

“We have eight-and-a-half acres. We’d like to use part of our property to build housing for the unhoused. We’re hoping to build 21 units,” he added.

People affiliated with Hope Solutions and other organizations, as well as a few Antioch residents spoke in favor of the tiny homes, including Pastor Chris Watson of the Golden Hills Community Church Community Outreach Center (COC) on East 18th Street.

“The biggest area of need is affordable housing,” he said. “Our people have income. We’re trying to provide them dignity. Providing a roof over their head is a difficulty. We look forward to partnering together.”

Council Discussion

During council discussion of the item District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock wanted to know, “This is permanent housing?”

“Yes,” was the response.

“Who will be there, families?” she asked. “I would like to see it as a family unit, myself. Under the government entities the County isn’t listed. I’d like to see the County partner with us. They get money from the state.”

“I think it’s a great idea. I love the idea,” Ogorchock continued. “It’s an exciting project and I think it’s something doable within the city.”

District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica, “When we say permanent housing are we talking forever, 30 years? And what is the funding mechanism beyond?”

“They’re built to HCD standards, the same as your home and my home,” Tarkoff explained. “These are not pallet homes or Tuff Sheds. This particular grant is all around being able to develop to explore micro-homes on faith owned home…streamlining the entitlement process.”

The organization is engaged in both public and private funding for the construction and ongoing costs.

“There is no plan in place to get that person into permanent housing?” Barbanica asked.

“The plan is to bring individuals and families, provide them with the housing, with support services…Hope Solutions does not place time limitations on how long an individual can stay in a home,” Tarkoff responded. “Of course, our goal is as individuals heal and want to get into larger housing, we’d like to get them into that trajectory.”

“On our end as policy makers we’ll really only be dealing with zoning,” Mayor Lamar Thorpe said. “This is your project. We don’t set expectations. We spend our time getting the zoning done. We’re not approving anything. We’re not. Just zoning. Certainly, we want to be involved.”

“I still believe in participating in this…proposal at the church,” Ogorchock added. “I think it’s more than just zoning and entitlements.”

“Our job is to not make this cumbersome. We can easily get in the way,” Thorpe stated. “You’re not asking for permission. Let’s create the zoning and let the churches and faith-based organizations get the job done.”

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