Archive for the ‘Politics & Elections’ Category

Former Antioch Council candidate, city watchdog, Karl Dietzel passes

Thursday, December 29th, 2016
Antioch resident Karl Dietzel holds a No on Measure C campaign sign at the entrance of In-Shape on Lone Tree Way, on Friday morning, October 11.

Antioch resident Karl Dietzel holds a No on Measure C campaign sign at the entrance of In-Shape on Lone Tree Way, on Friday morning, October 11, 2013. Antioch Herald file photo.

Karl Dietzel takes oath of office following filing his nomination papers to run for the Antioch City Council, in August, 2016.

Karl Dietzel takes oath of office following filing his nomination papers to run for the Antioch City Council, in August, 2016.

By Allen Payton

Two-time Antioch City Council candidate and regular council watchdog, Karl Dietzel passed away, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016. It was announced by his daughter Kat on his Facebook page, Wednesday night.

A native of Germany, Dietzel ran for council, unsuccessfully, in both 2014 and 2016 and has been a regular attendee of council meetings over the years, as both a watchdog and a critic, usually of misspending public funds.

In an email from fellow council watchdogs, Mary and Nancy Fernandez on Thursday morning, they wrote, “with great sadness we pass on the sad news that Karl Dietzel passed away yesterday afternoon from a massive heart attack.  His wife said it was a blessing he knew nothing except to take a nap.”

Dietzel was also one of the two leading opponents of Measure C, the city’s half-cent sales tax for more police and Code Enforcement Officers, in 2013.

Antioch Mayor Sean Wright offered his condolences.

“My heart goes out to his family during this difficult time,” he said. “Karl’s love and concern for this city will be missed.”

Thursday afternoon, Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe added his thoughts on Dietzel’s passing.

“Karl’s passing isn’t only devastating for his family but for our community as well,” he said. “I was going to name him my primary City Council alternate. Karl showed up at the last City Council meeting ready to roll up his sleeves and assist the City Council around crime, blight, ADA compliance and much more through the Sycamore Corridor Committee, while some politicians where advocating its dismantling. He was a committed family man, community advocate and spoke truth to power. He will be greatly missed.”


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Harper, Rocha say their goodbyes during final council meeting, Simonsen, Conley sworn in again

Monday, December 26th, 2016
Out-going Mayor Wade Harper is hugged by then-Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock as he leaves the Council dais for the final time on Thursday, December 8, 2016.

Out-going Mayor Wade Harper is hugged by then-Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock as he leaves the Council dais for the final time, as Council Members Monica Wilson and Tony Tiscareno applaud his service, on Thursday, December 8, 2016.

Publisher’s Note: This is the final of two articles on the December 8, 2016 Antioch City Council meeting.

By Allen Payton

During the December 8th council meeting, prior to the oaths of office for Mayor Sean Wright, Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe and re-elected Councilwoman Monica Wilson, out-going Mayor Wade Harper and Councilwoman Mary Rocha said their good-byes. In addition, City Clerk Arn Simonsen and City Treasurer Donna Conley were sworn in for another term, as they were each re-elected without opposition.

Steven Evans gave the invocation to open the evening’s ceremonies.

Harper jokingly said, “when I saw the large crowd I thought feral cats were on the agenda.”

City Clerk Arne Simonsen presents out-going Councilwoman Mary Rocha with a photo from First 5 of Contra Costa.

City Clerk Arne Simonsen presents out-going Councilwoman Mary Rocha with a photo from First 5 of Contra Costa.

Rocha was first to speak.

“You can feel the excitement in the air and also the sadness,” she said. “For my life it’s been 44 years. So you’re going to see me around.”

She thanked the former mayors she served with.

“I started on the school side where I served 16 years there,” Rocha continued. Thank you, again. I love all of you. This has been the best council that I’ve worked with. We haven’t all been on the same street. We’re very respectful. We’re rolling together and that’s for one thing. That’s the City of Antioch.”

Councilman Tony Tiscareno then offered his thoughts.

“I’ve known Mary since I was little. Rumor had it that I was her third son,” he said with a smile. “You know what. You are my mama. My second mother. To share this dais with you has been an honor. I’m proud to be a part of your life. I was proud to be part of the council with you.”

Next then-Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock shared about Rocha.

“I grew up down the street from Mary,” she said, choking up. “My husband’s the one who told her she had the 44 years. She’s done a lot for this city. She’s part of Antioch’s history. I’m very glad to have you as my friend. I’m glad you were here.”

Wilson then stated, “you care so passionately about this town. You’ve been a big, big major inspiration to me. Thank you for all you’ve done for Antioch.”

Harper spoke last.

“In the Social Justice room on the wall of Antioch High School, there’s a mural of the first Hispanic woman who served as Mayor of Antioch,” he said referring to Rocha. “Mary has a pure heart. When I first ran I called Mary and she returned my call. She told me she couldn’t support me but she gave me advice.”

Erica Rodriguez representing Assemblyman Jim Frazier then presented a framed certificate of recognition from him and one from Congressman Jerry McNerney.

State Senator Steve Glazer’s representative George Escutia presented a plaque, mentioning the fact that Rocha was the “first Latina Mayor in the county, as well.”

“I feel like I’ve died and gone to Heaven,” Rocha said.

She thanked her husband Louie for his support.

“I was told I was going to lose him. Latina ladies are not supposed to be in politics,” she added.

Diane Gibson-Gray, then the president of the Antioch School Board said, “You set the temperature and high water mark for what women in politics are supposed to be.”

Mary Rocha is hugged and applauded by friends and family, as campaign manager Ken Gray looks on.

Mary Rocha is hugged and applauded by friends and family, as campaign manager Ken Gray looks on.

She was joined by Trustees Debra Vinson, Walter Ruehlig, Alonzo Terry, trustee-elect Cystal Sawyer-White, and Superintendent Stephanie Anello to present Rocha with a plaque, as well.

“You’re my husband’s best friend,” Gibson-Gray continued.

“I’m his girlfriend, really,” Rocha said with a laugh.

“He’s run her campaigns,” Gibson-Gray added. “I expect you to pop up in other places.”

“Be ware,” Rocha responded with a smile.

Arne presented her with a photo of the ladies of First 5 and her original Council badge.

“The secret is I used that badge in Mexico,” Rocha shared. “Someone was giving me trouble. I showed it to an official.”

Simonsen then presented her with the photo of Rocha from the wall inside City Hall.

“A very young Mary Helen Rocha,” he said.

“And it doesn’t change,” she said with a laugh.

Rocha spent a total of 32 years in office in Antioch, including the 16 on the school board and 16 on the city council, including four years as Mayor.

Harper Says Farewell, But Not Forever

He said he was wearing “my favorite suit and my pocket watch my father left me.”

“This election could have gone either way,” Harper continued. “I made a phone call to Sean. He said hold off its still kind of close. I pledged to work with him and meet with him.”

“After I was elected Mayor a publisher of a newspaper asked ‘do you know how historic this is for you to be elected, without mentioning race?’ My comment was, ‘yes. I am the first Antioch Mayor who owns an iPad,’” Harper said with a grin.

“He published those comments and I knew that would be the beginning of a beautiful relationship,” he said wrily.

“I have endeavored to preach the gospel at all times and as it says if you must use words,” Harper continued. “I have been truly blessed to be the mayor of the great City of Antioch. I have been proud to have sworn in over 40 police officers. That was a highlight.”

“I want to thank those this council appointed to city commissions,” he added.

Harper then thanked City Manager Steve Duran and staff, Police Chief Allan Cantando and “the community partners.

“We have not always agreed,” he said to his fellow council members. “But I believe we were very effective.”

“I’m going to pass the torch but I’m going to keep my torch lit,” Harper concluded. “I’m going to pass the torch on to Sean Wright. He never needed a title to lead. And I know he’s going to do a great job.”

Presentations from Frazier and McNerney – Erica Rodriguez rep.

George Escutia, rep Sen. Steve Glazer, mentioning Harper’s “six years on the city council, two as council member as Mayor Pro Tem, for years as Mayor, before that two years as an appointed Trustee on the Antioch School Board.”

Gibson-Gray then led a presentation by the Antioch School Board, along with her fellow council members and Anello.

“I was always happy to sit by the best looking man on the school board,” she said, adding “Sorry, Walter.

“Once you moved on to the dark side,” Gibson-Gray continued, referring to the city council. “I’m kidding. The other side. Because it is a partnership between the district and the city. I’m sure our paths will soon cross again.”

“Absolutely,” Harper replied, and then hugged each of the school board members.

Special Presentation

Antioch High School student Clarissa Wilson then offered a special gift to Harper saying, “you’ve done an outstanding and inspirational job for this community. Thank you for being a role model for the youth of this community.”

She said she wanted to give him “something sweet for a bittersweet moment.”

“Clarissa’s one of my students,” Harper said who teaches in the Leadership Academy.

“Get off the phone, Clarissa,” he said to laughter from the crowd.

Simonsen then presented Harper with a photo of him with First 5, in which Harper was “wearing Willie Brown’s hat,” he shared.

A plaque with a gavel on it, as well as his photo from the wall inside City Hall were also presented to Harper.

“Another good looking, young man,” Simonsen said. “Thank you on behalf of the city council, residents and the staff.”

Tiscareno was the first of the council members to speak.

County Clerk Joe Canciamilla administers the oath of office to City Clerk Arne Simonsen.

County Clerk Joe Canciamilla administers the oath of office to City Clerk Arne Simonsen.

“Mayor Harper, I want to thank you for your service and for your friendship,” he stated. “I’ve admired you from day one. Your leadership. Your quality skills. You know how to run a meeting. I’ve never seen a council that’s worked so well together. My hat’s off to you. I think this council has accomplished a lot under you. We don’t wine and dine all the time but I think about you all the time. You’re young. You’re bright. Keep your head up high because you’re going places. I know you’re going to be involved.”

Wilson then shared her thoughts.

“Thank you so much for your service,” she said echoing Tiscareno. “I really admire your work with our young people. We didn’t always see eye to eye but I did respect your opinion.”

Finally, Ogorchock had her chance to speak.

“We have not always agreed but we always came to an agreement,” she stated. “I know God has a plan for you and I know you’re going to be around. Thank you so much for your service.”

Arne Simonsen Sworn In

Next, the evening’s festivities included the oath of office for City Clerk Simonsen, administered by County Clerk Joe Canciamilla, followed by City Treasurer Conley’s.

“I have the most important person, my grandson Gavin Simonsen,” Simonsen said, and then introduced the rest of his family.

“It was a rough election,” he said with a laugh, as he ran unopposed. “Antioch had a 72.4% turnout in the election. Thank you for giving me the opportunity.

“I support the city council and the city manager but I represent you,” Simonsen added. “And if you like transparency believe me I’m going to give it.”

Donna Conley’s Oath of Office

City Treasurer Donna Conley is sworn in for a fourth term by City Clerk Arne Simonsen as her family looks on.

City Treasurer Donna Conley is sworn in for a fourth term by City Clerk Arne Simonsen as her family looks on.

Simonsen administered the oath for Conley, with her husband and former Councilman and current planning commissioner Jim and her family standing nearby.

She introduced her family.

“I couldn’t do anything without these people,” Conley stated. “I want to thank the citizens of Antioch. This is my fourth term. I do appreciate their confidence in me.”

“I pray you’re given the strength and wisdom to make the decisions for the city of Antioch,” she said to the new council members.

Public Comments

A few members of the public offered their comments following all of the oath of office ceremonies.

Marcel Caldwell of Glazer’s office offered congratulations “to Sean and Lamar.”

Robin Agopian said “thank you to both Wade and Mary for the work you’ve done.”

“Congratulations, Monica. I’m so proud of you,” she continued. “Lamar, congratulations. You’re grinning from ear to ear.”

“Sean, I remember when (her late husband and Councilman) Gary and I would have coffee together,” Agopian shared. “We would talk about people who could lead our community. Your name always came up. I can’t say thank you enough.

Then speaking to the audience about the council members, she said, “they’re still people. So if you have a concern, kindly send a note to them. So be very kind in your requests. It’s not easy to serve. Just pray for them.”

“I’m just so excited for all of you,” Agopian added.

Willie Mims representing the East County Branch of the NAACP said “congratulations to all of you. I come when there’s usually trouble. I’m looking forward to 2017. I’m hoping it’s more successful than 2016.”

“Tonight, I come in peace,” he added, to laughter, as Mims usually offers something with which to challenge either the council or school board.

Economic Development Commissioner Josh Young spoke next.

“Honorable Mayor and Council, I want to express my joy,” he stated. “It’s going to be a great 2017 a great season for Antioch. We are in the harvest time of Antioch. We’re going to see jobs come to Antioch because of this council you see here. My family has been here for generations. I look forward to working with you. I have plans myself.”

Erica Rodriguez offered congratulations on behalf of Assemblyman Frazier.

A resident named Malik, offered his congratulations to “Lamar with that great victory and the new mayor.”

“I’m definitely going to try to be more involved,” he added.

Antioch School Board Trustee Vinson said, “I just want to congratulate the new representatives on the council and Monica for your reelection. Hopefully you all can work with the school board.”

An enthusiastic resident, Kip Stephens was the last to speak

“Smiles. That’s what I like to see,” he said. “Congratulations Sean, Lamar, Monica. Tony, Lori. Let’s do it this time. Let’s rock. I’m tired of people moving away. I came pretty close. Let’s make it positive. Don’t just sit up there and listen.”

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Belle admits no Bachelor’s degree, agrees to community service, avoids trial, possible fine

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

Says he believes he had degree at time he wrote his candidate statement in 2014; retired Dean confirms Belle completed all course work for degree.

Jeff Belle, source Contra Costa County Board of Education

Jeff Belle, source Contra Costa County Board of Education

By Allen Payton

Embattled Contra Costa County Board of Education Trustee Jeff Belle admitted in court on Thursday, December 15, 2016 that he does not have a college degree in political science, as he wrote in his candidate’s statement, when he ran and was elected in 2014. In his declaration, required as part of his agreement and signed under penalty of perjury, Belle wrote, he “believed then that the statement was true.”

“Belle submitted a letter to the court, it was filed with the court and it is an allocution of sorts,” said Deputy District Attorney Steve Moawad who prosecuted the case against Belle. “He admits he did not have a bachelor’s degree. He said he thought he did at the time and it was not his intent to mislead the public.”

Belle was approved for a diversion program in which he agreed to perform 20 hours of community service and to write the declaration saying he does not in fact have a bachelor’s degree and to obey all laws.

Once he submits proof of his community service, the case will possibly be dismissed in either June or December of next year.

“Diversion is normally a year or 18 months or something along those lines. That’s what we envisioned,” Moawad explained. “Belle asked the court for early diversion, which would dismiss the case earlier.”

However, Moawad wouldn’t commit to that.

“The judge asked if Mr. Belle does more than the 20 hours of service, would you consider dismissing in June,” Moawad continued. “I agreed to keep an open mind about that. It would be my expectation that if he wants the case dismissed in June he would do more than 20 hours of community service.”

In Belle’s Declaration, he wrote:

“I, Jeffrey Belle, state that in 2014 I filed my candidate’s statement for the office of Trustee to the Contra Costa County Board of Education. I drafted the statement to be accurate, true, and complete. I stressed my experience as an educator and also mentioned some of my educational achievements. I mentioned, among several other achievements, that I had earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. I believed then that the statement was true.

When I drafted my statement, I believed that I had earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science at Oklahoma City University (OCU). In my senior year, I was told by the Registrar’s office at OCU that I would be graduating in August of that year, however the OCU’s registrar’s office also advised me that they were waiting for the certified transcript from American University (AU) where I had spent a semester studying. I walked for my graduation at OCU on May 6, 1989. I believed my graduation was effective in August of 1989 as stated in the graduation program and as I had been told by

the registrar’s office at OCU.

However, it has now been clarified that I do not have a Bachelor’s Degree from OCU. It was not my intent to misinform the voters regarding my degree. In the future I will be more careful about my statements to ensure no misinterpretation.

I state and declare under penalty of perjury, under the laws of the State of California in Contra Costa County, that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.

Jeffrey Belle

December 15, 2016

He claimed on his ballot statement that he “earned” a “Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science.”

However in an October, 2015 interview for an article with this reporter, Belle said, “I still owe American University for room and board for that semester of almost $3,000. However, in 1989 I walked in the graduation, and they acknowledge it, but they won’t confer the degree, until then.”

Belle referred questions about his letter to his attorneys.

“Talk to Carol or Marsaane about (the) letter,” he said in a message.

By participating in the diversion program, Belle avoids a trial and the maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine. However, the case has cost the taxpayers much more than that.

The DA’s office began the investigation of Belle’s lie in early 2015 and the prosecution began six months later. The case has included multiple court dates, with Belle and his attorneys delaying the process asking for continuances, until Thursday.

The most recent delay in the case included a claim that he’s had cancer has been in the hospital for the past two months getting treatment.

Carol Hehmeyer, one of Belle’s attorneys, said, “He was charged with violating section 18351 of the Elections Code, which is not lying but making a statement that you knowingly know is false when you make it and thought it would have influenced the election.”

That section of the elections code reads as follows:

“Any candidate in an election or incumbent in a recall election who knowingly makes a false statement of a material fact in a candidate’s statement, prepared pursuant to Section 11327 or 13307, with the intent to mislead the voters in connection with his or her campaign for nomination or election to a nonpartisan office is punishable by a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000).”

“He did earn it,” she said referring to his degree in political science.” He walked for graduation. His family members were there. They provided declarations under penalty of perjury.”

“We have the declaration from the Dean of the Department of Political Science Larry Eberhart, who retired before this exploded,” Hehmeyer continued.

“Jeff does not need the courses they’re now saying he needs,” she explained. “They’re eliminating some of the credits he did get. They’re not going to recognize the credits that were transferred from another college because the school is no longer in business.”

“The DA’s office spent a year trying to find something wrong about the candidate’s statement,” Hehmeyer added. “The first judge that heard this wanted to get rid of this and wanted diversion.”

Which is what Belle ultimately accepted instead of going to trial.

“We didn’t have the money for a trial,” she said.

The confusion in the case and accusation against Belle stem from the use and definition of the term “earn” versus “confer” when referring to his college the degree. He only used the phrase “have earned…Bachelor’s degree in Political Science,” when Belle wrote and signed his ballot statement in summer, 2014 at the beginning of the campaign.

Belle is currently the Vice President of the county school board. His term ends in 2018.

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New Antioch School Board Trustees sworn in, but not when it was publicly announced and scheduled

Thursday, December 15th, 2016
Few people were in attendance when new Antioch School Board Trustee is given her oath of office by County Supervisor Federal Glover during a special session, before the regular Board meeting, Wednesday night, December 14, 2016. Photo by Debra Vinson.

Few people were in attendance when new Antioch School Board Trustee is given her oath of office by County Supervisor Federal Glover, as district staff look on, during a special session, before the regular Board meeting, Wednesday night, December 14, 2016. Photo by Debra Vinson.

Former board members got send off during November 16 meeting before term ended, also without being on agenda

By Allen Payton

The new members of the Antioch School Board, Crystal Sawyer-White and Gary Hack, along with Diane Gibson-Gray who was re-elected to a third term in November, took their oaths of office, this week. But, not when they were supposed to according to Wednesday night’s board meeting agenda.

The oaths were scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at the beginning of the board’s regular meeting, but Hack, who the voters returned to the board after having lost his re-election bid in 2014, and Gibson-Gray were sworn in on Tuesday, according to Superintendent Stephanie Anello. She said Hack thought he was going to have a scheduling conflict.

Sawyer-White, who received the most votes in the school board race in the November election, was given her oath by County Supervisor Federal Glover at 6:00 p.m. prior to the board’s previously scheduled closed session. Only her husband Casper and a few others were in attendance.

When asked if the public or media was informed of the change in schedule for the oaths of office for the new and returning board members, and why it wasn’t on the agenda for 6:00 p.m., Anello stated, “We don’t have to.” She later said her answer was in response to not having “it on the agenda prior to closed session, not about informing the media.”

Asked when Sawyer-White’s oath ceremony had been rescheduled after the meeting agenda was published on Friday, December 10th, Anello said she would respond later today. Sawyer-White said “Nancy (Stephanie’s Admin)…asked if I could be sworn in at 5:45 with Stephanie. I preferred Federal Glover and we decided 6:00 p.m. after all the confusion.”

Asked again about when the change in scheduling of her oath ceremony occurred, Sawyer-White responded, “I am not sure which day. Nancy would know. Nancy sent out all the emails.”

When contacted about the matter, Nancy Belleci, Senior Executive Assistant for Anello, did not respond.

UPDATE 1: However, Anello did respond, Thursday afternoon, as she said she would.

“We sent an email to all three incoming Board Members approximately a week ago stating that they would need to be sworn in prior to Closed Session Wednesday night which was scheduled for 6:20 pm. We figured that 6:00 pm would be enough time for all three to be sworn in,” she said. “Tuesday, both Gary and Diane asked if I could administer the oath that day rather than prior to Wednesday’s meeting.”

“We then contacted Crystal to let her know that if it was more convenient for her to come at 6:15 pm. we could administer the oath then as Gary and Diane had already been sworn in,” Anello continued. “She said she needed to come at 6:00 pm since Federal Glover was swearing her in and he had another commitment.”

“The ceremonial oath of office was agendized,” she added. “None of the three Board Members felt they needed to participate in a ceremonial swearing in.”

She was then asked why then did the agenda which was sent out on Friday, two days later, show the oaths of office during the regular meeting that started at 7:00 p.m.

“Because in the past, Board Members wanted to have a second ceremonial swearing in after closed session when more people may be present,” Anello explained. “The three incoming Board Members declined.”

But, that was for a re-enactment ceremony, which is not how the item was listed on the agenda at 7:00 p.m.

The item on the agenda for the regular meeting was listed as a “Ceremonial Oath of Office.”

5. Recall to Open Session – 7:00 PM

A. Reports from Closed Session

B. Flag Salute

C. Ceremonial Oath of Office – Diane Gibson-Gray, Gary Hack, Crystal Sawyer-White

The confusion lay in the use of the term “ceremonial” by Anello and the new board members, to refer to the re-enactment of the actual oaths of office which occurred earlier. There was no oath of office ceremony for the public to be aware of and attend.

Former Board Members’ Farewell

The two former board members who were not elected in November, Fernando Navarro and Alonzo Terry, did not attend Wednesday night’s meeting, as they were given their farewell send-off at the board’s meeting on November 16, according to Anello. However, it wasn’t on that meeting’s agenda for the public to know.

Navarro said he refused to have his photo, which was hanging on the wall inside the district office, given to him that night, since he and Terry were still on the board and continued serving until the new members took their oaths of office. He saw the effort as an attempt to demonstrate that the two of them were no longer on the board, so that they could not vote on the Rocketship Education charter petition at the board’s meeting held on Wednesday, December 7.

Asked if they were going to be recognized at the Wednesday’s meeting, Anello said, “They were recognized by Board Members and myself at our last regularly scheduled meeting.”

Asked if it was on the agenda, she responded, “My administrative assistant sent them an email letting them know that we would be recognizing them at our last regularly scheduled board meeting as we have done for all other outgoing board members in past years. Fernando said it would be inappropriate and that he would come pick up his picture at a later date. He said he spoke for both he and Alonzo. Thus, during my comments I acknowledged and thanked them for their service. Other Board members thanked them during their comments.”

According to Navarro, following the comments made by Walter Ruehlig and Debra Vinson, Gibson-Gray’s was merely, “ditto.”

I’m sorry if it appeared to…Fernando like it was a political move to formally recognize them as we had done in the past in order to send an inferred message of powerlessness,” Anello added. “I can assure you that from my perspective that was absolutely not the case. I didn’t always agree with them — nor they me, but I enjoyed working with them.”

However, Gibson-Gray did make an attempt, as board president at the time, to get Ruehlig and Vinson to join her in swearing in the new board members at the meeting on December 7th, prior to the vote on the Rocketship petition.

While the state Education Code states that terms of school board members end on the first Friday in December after the election, it also states that they serve until the new members are qualified. That has been interpreted to mean when the new members are given their oaths of office.

So, there was no formal, dignified ceremony of the transfer of power by the Antioch School Board as happened last Thursday, by the Antioch City Council. A video of Sawyer-White’s oath of office, taken by her husband Casper, can be viewed on the Antioch Herald’s Facebook page.

UPDATE 2: However, as of Thursday afternoon, Sawyer-White said that new Board Vice President Debra Vinson told her that a ceremony for the new board members and and a re-enactment of the oaths of office will be held Jan. 25th. That was confirmed by new Board President Walter Ruehlig, who wrote via email, “More details to follow.”


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Rocketship vote question answered, current Board members serve until new ones sworn in

Monday, December 12th, 2016

By Allen Payton

Questions surrounding the Antioch School Board’s vote to approve the Rocketship Education charter petition at last Wednesday night’s special meeting were raised at the meeting and since then. Some have asked and considered challenging if there was a quorum of members, since current Trustees Diane Gibson-Gray, Fernando Navarro and Alonzo Terry’s terms ended on Friday, December 2nd, according to one part of the state Education Code. Both Navarro and Terry lost their bids for election. While Gibson-Gray was re-elected, she won’t take the oath of office for her new term, along with the other two election winners, Crystal Sawyer-White and Gary Hack, until this Wednesday night, December 14.

The portion of Education Code Section 5017 which has caused people to call into question the Rocketship vote, reads “Each person elected at a regular biennial governing board member election shall hold office for a term of four years commencing on the first Friday in December next succeeding his or her election.”

Therefore, they conclude there were only two voting, current members of the Board – Vice President Walter Ruehlig and Trustee Debra Vinson – at the meeting and voting on the charter school petition.

However, the rest of that section reads, “Any member of the governing board of a school district or community college district whose term has expired shall continue to discharge the duties of the office until his or her successor has qualified. The term of the successor shall begin upon the expiration of the term of his or her predecessor.”

That begged the question of what is the definition of “qualified.”

Antioch Unified School District Superintendent Stephanie Anello answered that question, today, Monday, December 12, 2016. In an email, she providing the following explain and define the various terms and how they apply to the school board election:

“‘Qualifying’ for Office

Though the law does not explicitly state what is meant by the term ‘qualify,’ many counties interpret it to mean (1) the individual won the election, and (2) the individual has taken the oath of office. Technically, an individual has not ‘won’ the election until the election results are ‘certified.’

‘Certifying’ Election Results

The elections office must provide a certified statement of the results of the election to the District within 30 days of the election. (Elec. Code, § 15372.) The law is unclear whether the election results must be ‘certified’ prior to newly elected board members assuming office pursuant to Education Code section 5017. (According to County Clerk Joe Canciamilla, the election was certified last Tuesday, December 6, 2016).

‘Declaring’ Election Results

Separate and apart from the certification requirement, Elections Code section 15400 requires the ‘governing body’ to officially ‘declare’ the winner of the election. While section 15400 does not specify who the ‘governing body’ official is, generally the county board of supervisors will ‘declare’ the winner shortly after the election. Such is the case for the District. Unlike certification, there is no express deadline or timeline for the declaration of election.

Our legal counsel advised that they recommended that the new Board be sworn in after the certification of the results. However, they also advised that a district or other entity may choose to wait until the winners are declared to avoid a situation in which the winner appeared to be one individual when, in fact, it was another.”

So, the vote on the Rocketship charter petition by the current Board of Trustees was valid, they had a quorum of members in order to take the vote that night. However, the situation could have been avoided had the Board held the required to vote on the Rocketship petition on November 28th, meeting – within the 60-day limit after receiving the petition on September 30th – as it was originally scheduled.

An attempt was made last Monday, December 5th, by current Board President Gibson-Gray to have the new trustees sworn in last Wednesday night, before the vote on the Rocketship charter petition, when she called Ruehlig and asked him to discuss it with Vinson and to decide if they wanted to do that and let her know. (That created a violation of the state’s Brown Act open meeting law, by holding a serial meeting in private of a majority of board members. Both Ruehlig and Vinson say they rejected the idea. That matter will be the subject of a separate article.) But, her term had also expired on Friday, December 2nd, so any action by her could have also been challenged, if the new board was sworn in and the Rocketship charter petition vote had failed. But, that won’t occur until this Wednesday, December 14 at 7:00 p.m. during the regular school board meeting, at the School Services Building, 510 G Street in downtown Antioch when Sawyer-White, Gibson-Gray and Hack all are given their oaths of office.


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Antioch gets new Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem during ceremonies Thursday night

Friday, December 9th, 2016
Dr. Sean Wright takes the oath of office administered by his uncle, Oakley Mayor Kevin Romick, with Wright's wife Lani holding the Bible, and their children by his side, during ceremonies, Thursday night. Photo by Michael Pohl.

Dr. Sean Wright takes the oath of office administered by his uncle, Oakley Mayor Kevin Romick, with Wright’s wife Lani holding the Bible, and their five children by his side, during ceremonies, Thursday night. Photo by Michael Pohl.

By Allen Payton

In front of a standing-room-only crowd inside the Antioch City Council Chambers, Dr. Sean Wright and Lamar Thorpe were given their oaths of office to become the city’s new mayor and newest council member during ceremonies, Thursday night. They joined re-elected Councilwoman Monica Wilson who was sworn in to her second term on the council, and Council Members Tony Tiscareno and Lori Ogorchock, on the dais. As the council candidate with the most votes in the race, Thorpe was then unanimously voted in as the new mayor pro tem, replacing Ogorchock who served in the position for the past two year, and then the two switched seats, placing him to Wright’s right. (View the Facebook live video of the reorganization by clicking here).

The evening began with the outgoing council’s vote to accept the results of the election, followed by farewell speeches by both Councilwoman Mary Rocha and Mayor Wade Harper, as well as speeches by their fellow council members. They were each also presented with a variety of presentations and plaques from the Antioch School Board, and representatives of State Senator Steve Glazer, Congressman Jerry McNerney and Assemblyman Jim Frazier, as well as First 5, a non-profit organization that serves young children in Antioch and the county.

Both Antioch City Clerk Arne Simonsen and City Treasurer Donna Conley were sworn into their positions, again, having each been re-elected without opposition.

Mayor Wright Takes Office

A standing ovation greeted Wright, as he walked to the podium for his oath of office, which was administered by his uncle and current Mayor of Oakley, Kevin Romick.

“Don’t cry, Sean” some ladies in the audience said.

“Yeah,” shouted supporter Kip Stephens from the back of the room.

Following his oath, Wright said, “I just want to thank all of you guys for coming.”

“This family I have I love dearly and I know they’re going to be with me,” he continued. “I look out there and think of how many of you have become my family. That’s what we need to be as Antioch, a family.”

After Wright took his seat at the dais, Ogorchock welcomed him to the council and said, “I’m here to help you in moving this community moving forward.”

Tiscareno offered his congratulations to Wright.

“I’ve seen some close elections and landslides we were able to see both in this election,” he stated. “Antioch spoke and want to see some change.”

Wright then offered his thoughts in his new position as the community’s leader.

“Thank you all for coming out tonight,” he said. He then mentioned having “the opportunity to sit down with the council members, today” to discuss working together and city business.

Wright used an analogy of the rainy weather which greeted him after waking up, yesterday morning.

“It’s been raining and drizzly all day,” he said, but then interrupted his thought to say “Mayor Harper thank you so much for your service and Mary Rocha, you as well.”

Back to his analogy, Wright said about the rain,“It cleans things. It gives a fresh start and that’s what I see in Antioch. What an opportunity we have as a city to become one.”

“I personally am tired of friends moving away,” he continued on a previous theme. “I want to see people choose to stay here. Where people…work, worship and play all in one place. A school system that we can be proud of that is a college going atmosphere.”

“Let the rain come and the spring come up and make Antioch where we want to live,” Wright said, continuing his weather analogy.

He then said he approached his new position with “nervous trepidation and optimistic excitement,” recognizing that “65% of you didn’t vote for me” but that “65% of you voted for change” and mentioning an election he thought would never end.

“I ask you to confirm me as your mayor with your prayers,”

He thanked his supporters which were diverse and then offered to quotes about service.

“I will be a mayor of all the people,” he said and then offered a quote from Ghandi about service to others.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” Wright shared. He also said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room on earth,” quoting Muhammad Ali.

“Truth is the glue the holds government together,” he then stated. “I look forward to serving and to help shed light and bring us together.”

Wright spoke of how he will speak with “candor” and that “honesty is the best policy in the end.”

“Friends and neighbors a change is coming to Antioch,” he stated emphatically. “In the beginning I asked you to pray for me. In closing I ask for your prayers. I pray for the wisdom of Solomon.”

“I will serve Antioch with all my heart mind and strength,” Wright concluded.

Before the new mayor spoke, both Thorpe and Wilson gave their acceptance speeches.

Lamar Thorpe, with his wife Pat and their daughter Kennedy by his side, was given his oath of office by Supervisor-elect Diane Burgis. Photo by Michael Pohl.

Lamar Thorpe, with his wife Pat and their daughter Kennedy by his side, was given his oath of office by Supervisor-elect Diane Burgis. Photo by Michael Pohl.

Mayor Pro Tem Thorpe Sworn In

Thorpe was administered his oath of office by Diane Burgis, who was elected to the Board of Supervisors in November, with his wife Pat and their daughter Kennedy by his side. Burgis gave a high-five to Thorpe at the conclusion.

In introducing his family, he got choked up while trying to thank Pat.

“I want to thank her because she was the one who encouraged me to run this year,” Thorpe stated and then said to her, “Thank you for giving me the strength and encouragement.”

“I want to thank the current city council for their hard work,” he added then thanked his friends and family.

As he was heading to the dais, Ogorchock, who as the Mayor Pro Tem at the time, was running the meeting, after Harper had stepped down from his position, said “I got to say that’s the first time I’ve seen Lamar speechless,” to laughter from him and the audience.

After being seated in his new place, next to the mayor, Thorpe offered his formal thoughts about the election, saying “I was surprised by how many people voted for me,” and mentioning that on Election Night all he could say was, “Wow.”

He thanked County Supervisor-elect Diane Burgis and then gave thanks “to my mom who I know is watching over me today. She passed away a year ago.”

“She and my dad came here from Mexico. They took in foster kids. I was their very first.

“I want to make sure I represent the good people of Antioch not the special interests,” Thorpe stated. “Because this is your government.”

He then thanked his campaign manager and volunteers.

“There’s a lot of work that we’re going to have to get done,” he continued. “There are some tough challenges coming up in the next few years.”

He then thanked “the Archuletas (Keith and Iris) who have been invaluable,” and former Antioch Mayor Don Freitas.

“I want to focus on transparency and accountability,” Thorpe said. “We want to engage the community.”

He then spoke of his concerns with housing growth and the need for jobs in Antioch.

“ABAG (the Association of Bay Area Governments) has continued to fail Eastern Contra Costa County,” Thorp stated. “They’ve projected more houses and fewer jobs. That’s not sustainable. We must demand high quality jobs.”

He also spoke about the need for “smart growth and transit oriented development.”

“I’m not afraid to point it out because I don’t go along to get along,” Thorpe added.

He finished by saying he looked forward to working with the council and the community.

Re-elected Councilwoman Monica Wilson is given her oath of office by her brother Terrance, while their mother and Uncle

Re-elected Councilwoman Monica Wilson is given her oath of office by her brother Terrance, while their mother and Uncle Bob. P

Councilwoman Wilson Takes Oath for a Second Time

Wilson was given the oath of office by her brother, Terrance, with their mother and Uncle Bob standing by his side.

She then mentioned how “Four years ago when I was sworn in it happened so fast and so quickly I forgot to invite my Uncle Bob.” This time she did and he was there for the ceremony. She also mentioned her “older sister Melony is watching live from New York City.”

After taking her seat on the dais, Wilson shared her thoughts on and thanks for her re-election.

“I want to say thank you Antioch for reelecting me back to the city council,” she said. ‘I do want to thank someone who is here in spirit I want to thank Councilman Gary Agopian.”

“I want to thank Don Freitas for your advice, words of wisdom,” Wilson continued.

She thanked a friend who told her during the campaign to “suck it up and get it done.”

“I want to thank my mom,” Wilson said, choking back tears. “Whose always been there for me…even when times are hard. She walked for me, with me in the rain and the sunny days. She fell…and even got bit by a dog.”

“This is Antioch and a city we need to be proud of. We’ve been divided. We need to let go of that nonsense. Antioch still has challenges,” she continued and then spoke about the economic opportunities the city has

One of us is not as smart as all of us. We come together to make this city great,” Wilson concluded.


Dr. Lamont Francies of the Delta Bay Church of Christ in Antioch ended the proceedings by offering the following benediction:

“Almighty God in Heaven, it is with humble hearts that we approach your throne of grace, you are the God who sits on high and looks down low. We give thanks to you Lord, for you are good, your mercy endureth forever. Tonight, we rejoice in the city’s peaceful transfer of power. This city, incorporated in 1872,  was named after the biblical town of Antioch. A city noted for it’s cultural diversity, its trade and commerce, a refuge city for all seeking a better life. As we stand here on the dawn of a new day in Antioch, let us live up to that legacy and practice what we have been positioned to do. We are the light of the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. For we know unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.

Bless this gateway to the Delta, to be a gateway to peace, partnerships and prosperity.

Let us put behind the politics of the past and look to the possibilities of the future. Help us to see the invisible so that we can do the impossible. Make this city one, as we strive for unity and not uniformity. Tonight we forsake who we are for the possibility of who we can become. Give our new mayor, Dr. Wright the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, and the compassion to lead us with charity. Bless and protect him, his wife Lani and their five children…place a hedge around their home and a pledge in their hearts.

When the city was sick Lord, you sent us a doctor, but we know that before he was elected, he was selected, raised up by you for such a time as this. You not only gave him sight but insight, You gave him a vision. The bible says without a vision, the people perish. So together like Moses we lift up his hands, for we do not know what the future holds but we do know who holds the future.

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. I pray this in the name of the one that’s called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace, let us all together say  Amen.”

Wright then adjourned the meeting, and then along with Thorpe and others attended the Antioch Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Mixer underway at Tailgaters, where they celebrated with friends and supporters. Wilson held a gathering at her home with family, friends and supporters.

Please check back later for additional photos, speeches and public comments.



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Contra Costa DA Peterson reaches agreement with FPPC to pay $45,000 fine for personal use of campaign funds

Thursday, December 8th, 2016
Peterson, courtesy CCCDA's Office

Peterson, courtesy CCCDA’s Office

Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson announced on Monday that he had reached an agreement with the Enforcement Division of the Fair Political Practices Commission regarding use of campaign funds during 2011-2015.  The Enforcement Division will present the agreement to the Commission for its approval on December 15, 2016.

Following is his statement on the matter:

“I served as the treasurer of my own campaign committee from 2011 until 2015, after which I hired a professional paid treasurer. During that five-year period, I borrowed, in increments, a total of $66,373 from the Mark Peterson for District Attorney 2014 Committee.   I used the funds to pay for day-to-day expenses, like meals, gas, cell phone bills, and other personal expenses.  I considered the money a loan, kept track of those expenses at all times, made periodic repayments, and over time, repaid the Committee in full.

In 2015, the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) contacted me about a routine audit. In response, I hired a professional treasurer and immediately contacted the Enforcement Division of the FPPC to make them aware of the expenditures and my plan to address my error.  I cooperated fully and provided my contemporaneous records regarding the expenditures and reimbursements for their review, as well as all of the underlying documents.

The FPPC Enforcement Division has noted: ‘To his credit, upon learning of the FTB audit Peterson contacted the Enforcement Division, admitted his violations and fully cooperated with the investigation.’

It is with disappointment and regret that I acknowledge the mistakes I made regarding my campaign financing account.  As a result of these mistakes, I have agreed to pay the Fair Political Practices Commission a $45,000 administrative fine.

Although I have fully reimbursed the Committee for all of the personal expenditures, I make no excuses.

I am humbled and embarrassed by my mistakes, for which I take full responsibility, and I apologize for my regrettable errors.”

Mark Peterson, Contra Costa County District Attorney

In a further comment about the matter he said, “This matter is still under consideration by the FPPC, so this is the only public comment I am making on the matter.”


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Wright, Thorpe, Wilson to be sworn in at special Antioch Council meeting, this Thursday, Dec. 8

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

By Allen Payton

The oath of office ceremony for incoming mayor, Dr. Sean Wright, re-elected councilwoman Monica Wilson and new councilman Lamar Thorpe is scheduled for this Thursday, December 8 during a special meeting in the Council Chambers at City Hall. Although it’s not being held on the customary and traditional second Tuesday of December, following the certification of election, there is precedent for holding a special meeting to swear in a new mayor and council members, as happened in 2012.

Wright said that the meeting will be streamed live on the City’s website and if not shown live on Comcast local cable TV channel 24, like regular council meetings, it will be recorded for airing later, so that more Antioch residents who want to can watch.

But, while the the meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:00 p.m., according to the agenda under Item 1,  “If Certification for the November 8, 2016 election is received from the Contra Costa County Election Department prior to the Council’s December 8th Special Meeting, Staff recommends the Council adopt the resolution confirming the results of the November 8, 2016 General Election. If Certification is not received, Staff recommends continuing the item to a future meeting.”

Yet, according to the Elections Code section, which City Manager Steve Duran provided, when asked about scheduling the oaths of office on the 8th – which has been in the works for awhile – instead of the next regular council meeting on Tuesday, December 13th, it states the canvass must be completed before installing new officers.

10263. Upon the completion of the canvass and before installing the new officers, the governing body shall adopt a resolution reciting the fact of the election and the other matters that are enumerated in Section 10264. The governing body shall declare elected the persons for whom the highest number of votes were cast for each office.

(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), the governing body shall meet at its usual place of meeting no later than the fourth Friday after the election to declare the results and to install the newly elected officers.

(b) For a consolidated election, the governing body shall meet at its usual place of meeting no later than the next regularly scheduled city council meeting following presentation of the 28-day canvass of the returns, or at a special meeting called for this purpose, to declare the results and to install the newly elected officers.

Therefore, if certification is not received and voted on by the council on Thursday night and must be continued to a future meeting, then the oaths of office must also be continued to a future meeting, both of which would have to occur next Tuesday, Dec. 13th, which is the “next regularly scheduled city council meeting following presentation of the 28-day canvass of the returns.”

One cannot be done without the other occurring first, which is why the certification is on the agenda prior to the the ceremony, unless the oaths performed on Thursday night would merely be ceremonial. If so, the new mayor-elect and council member-elect would not be able to take their seats and the reorganization of the Council, under agenda Item 2 couldn’t occur and would have to also be postponed until next Tuesday.

However, in response to an email asking about the matter and if the canvass of returns also referred to as the certification of the election, will be done by this Thursday at 5:00 p.m., Duran responded, “The City is the governing body for the City election, even though the election was consolidated. The Elections Office said they will certify today.”

County Clerk Joe Canciamilla confirmed that, today, as well.

“We are done and just in the process of completing the paperwork necessary to send off to the SOS (Secretary of State),” he said this morning. “Certification will be official shortly and Arne was previously advised he could pick up his packet at 3 pm or thereafter.”

That advisement occurred in a letter Canciamilla sent out to city clerks and elections officials in the county, last month.

As for why the ceremony is being held this Thursday, instead of on the regular council meeting night, as some Antioch residents have been wondering, Duran had said previously it’s because the agenda was filling up and there wasn’t enough room or time for the ceremony, next Tuesday.

City Clerk Arne Simonsen confirmed that, today.

“Yes, the meeting on the 13th is a long one with closed session at 5:30 pm, an alphabet soup of items on consent and four public hearing items, in addition to regular agenda items,” he said. “That is why the decision was made to have the swearing in on the 8th.”

When asked why there couldn’t have been a special council meeting, next Thursday, December 15th to deal with the agenda items that couldn’t get done on the 13th, so the ceremony could be held that night, neither Duran nor Mayor Wade Harper, who in his position works with the city manager to set council agendas, did not respond.

When asked if he was included in the decision for holding the oath of office ceremony on Thursday, Wright responded, “As the Mayor elect I am very happy with the way that the swearing in ceremony is taking shape.  The meeting will be recorded and streamed live on our website so that citizens and family members who are unable to attend can watch. I have also been told that they are working with CCTV to broadcast live as well.”

“As we worked together to find a time that worked for our families and supporters the 5 PM start worked well and showed a willingness to compromise,” he continued. “I would love this meeting to be a celebration of a new beginning for me as Mayor and our council.  I hope that it can be free of controversy and be the beginning of a positive future for Antioch.”

“In such a close election with the results not giving us a clear cut winner until this weekend, I have not presumed victory and therefore not sat down with city staff and elected council members,” Wright explained.“This definitely puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to agendas but I have been in talks with Arne Simonsen today regarding this Thursday’s agenda and will sit down with Steve tomorrow to go over Thursday and next Tuesday’s agenda.  I am attempting to meet with council members this week and will make sure that I have a say in what is on the agenda and am ready to discuss those items included for Tuesday the 13th.”

“Again I will reiterate the hope that this Thursday is a celebration of a new council with a positive fresh start,” he added.

However, council meeting agendas only require a 72-hour public notice. Since the final results of the election were known last Saturday night, they could have waited to work with the new mayor-elect to set the agenda for either next Tuesday and/or this Thursday. Even if the results weren’t certified until Thursday, as Canciamilla’s office has the legal limit to do, next Tuesday’s council meeting agenda could have been decided that day, with the mayor-elect included.

Wright also had to make sure it was at 5:00 p.m., so he can attend his children’s school Christmas plays, later that night. In addition, the Antioch Chamber of Commerce had to move back by a half-hour, their annual Chairman’s Mixer to start at 5:30 p.m., so as not to conflict with the ceremony. Plus, since Duran and Harper had been planning for awhile to hold the ceremony and council reorganization this week, instead of waiting to find out who the new mayor would be and including him in the planning of the ceremony and the agenda for his first meeting on the 13th, Wilson had scheduled people to fly in to attend it on Thursday.

“All oaths of office will be performed at the same meeting,” Wright said. “The Chamber also worked with us and was flexible with the start time of the Mixer to allow those that wanted to attend both meetings the opportunity to do so.  Those wanting to join the Chairman’s Mixer following the meeting are welcome to attend.”

That will be hosted by new Chamber CEO and outgoing chairman, Richard Pagano and held at Tailgaters in Antioch.

So, beginning this Thursday, December 8th at 5:00 p.m., Antioch will have a new mayor and mayor pro tem, as Thorpe garnering the most votes in the council race, will be granted that two-year title, according to city ordinance, by a perfunctory vote of the council. The two new members will join Wilson, current Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock, and Councilman Tony Tiscareno, both of whom aren’t up for re-election until 2018.

The council reorganization will include a brief bit of what will appear to be musical chairs as the members literally change seats. But, it will not include the nomination of council members by Wright to various city committees and regional boards on which they represent the city. Those require a vote of approval by the council and, according to Simonsen, they will be on the agenda for the January 10th council meeting.

The Council Chambers at City Hall are located at 3rd and H Streets, between 2nd and 3rd in Antioch’s historic, downtown Rivertown.

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