Antioch Council to deal with full agenda, employee contracts during final meeting with current members, Tuesday night

Council Member-Elect Thorpe not happy contracts extend beyond expiration of Measure C.

Plans afoot to hold oaths of office ceremony for new members on Thursday before regular meeting in December.

By Allen Payton

In an effort to get a variety of items approved before a new council member and possibly a new mayor take their oaths of office in December, the Antioch City Council will deal with an unusually full agenda with 21 items for discussion, including all of the employee contracts up for renewal, during their meeting Tuesday night, November 22nd.

While there’s no doubt that Lamar Thorpe was the top vote-getter in the council race in the November 8th election and will replace Councilwoman Mary Rocha, the race for mayor has not yet been decided. It has most likely been won by Dr. Sean Wright. But with only 129 votes between him and incumbent Antioch Mayor Wade Harper, it’s possible the outcome could change, as thousands of remaining ballots are counted by the County Elections office.

But, instead of waiting for the possibly two new council members to be seated, the current Council will have the opportunity to vote on the five-year contracts for each of the six employee groups that have been participating in negotiations, this year. Those include the contract for the Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3, Antioch Police Officers Association, Antioch police Sworn Management Association, the non-sworn Police Dispatcher Classification salaries, as well as the City’s Confidential and Management Units.

Recent council meeting agendas have been very light in comparison. The October 25th agenda only had three items on it, as did the October 11th agenda. The November 8th agenda was light, as well, with only five items. But, that was on Election Night. In comparison, tonight’s meeting has 19 items for discussion on the agenda.

The mayor and City Manager are the ones who set the council meeting agendas. An email was sent with the following questions: Must all the items on the agenda be decided tonight? Or can some of them wait until the one or two new council members are seated, forming a possible new majority with a different direction for the city, including spending?

As for the employee contracts, shouldn’t those wait to be voted on by the new council? Also, why five years instead of a more reasonable time-frame of three years, with the City facing future deficits and especially since the contracts will extend beyond the expiration of Measure C? Isn’t that part of the problem the City is currently facing, playing catch up, specifically with police hiring, from the six-year, rich contracts approved in 2007 by the Council, at that time? Is the Council not learning from history and repeating the mistakes of the past?

In response, City Manager Steve Duran wrote via email, “The Council asked for a lighter Agenda on election night 11/08 and so now they have to deal with a longer agenda on 11/22. Mayors and Council members are elected for a term of office and it is their duty to do the City’s business for the whole term.”

“It’s up to the sitting City Council if they want to postpone any items, but I would not recommend it and I hope people won’t play politics with things like the labor contracts that this Council, staff and union reps spend months negotiating in good faith,” he added.

Some of the contracts, such as the ones for police, are retroactive to and begin September 1st or October 1st of this year. They include such things as holiday pay for this Thursday, Christmas and New Year’s Day, so those contracts are time sensitive.

Only Duran responded to follow-up questions asking was it procrastination or merely a desire to get all the agenda items done at the last minute, with the current council, and what the City’s plan is if Measure C isn’t renewed or if revenues haven’t increased enough to replace those generated by Measure C.

“That will be up to the new City Council,” he wrote. “Measure C will be about $7 million a year.”

Neither Harper, nor any of the other council members responded to any of the same emailed questions.

Thorpe Responds

However, Council Member-Elect Lamar Thorpe and Dr. Sean Wright, who is possibly the next Mayor, received the same questions.

“I don’t know why the council agenda is so loaded,” Thorpe wrote. “However, I have grave concerns about the employee contracts because of the city’s inability to recognize and correct its poor spending decisions.”

“To ensure we’re able to keep city services at adequate levels, employee contracts – especially police contracts – should not extend beyond the expiration of Measure C funding,” he continued. “These contracts should be two or three years long until we can figure out where new revenue will come from.”

Wright did not respond before publication time.

In response to Duran’s comment about Measure C, the following additional questions were asked: So, this council will strap the future council with the responsibility for paying the bill when it comes due? Is that responsible governing?

Why not make the contracts only until the end of Measure C and then base new contracts on it’s renewal or failure or the city’s finances at that time? Doesn’t that make more sense?

Duran responded, “The labor contracts are on the Agenda for tonight. Responding to your questions in email would be a violation of the Brown Act (state open meeting law).”

An email was sent to City Attorney Michael Vigilia’s asking his opinion on that.

Oaths of Office Ceremony and Council Reorganization

Duran was the only one to respond to questions about the idea of scheduling the oaths of office ceremony and council reorganization to Thursday, December 8th instead of the traditional second Tuesday in December, which would be on the 13th.

“The idea is to take the time to recognize any outgoing members and give the new and re-elected officials a night to celebrate with family and friends rather than squeezing the ceremonial stuff between closed session and regular agenda items and it’s best to have our new Council deal with closed session items on the 13th after they are sworn in on the 8th,” he wrote. “You will notice that we have no closed session items tonight. There is only one regular Council meeting in December and the agenda is not set yet, but anything that cannot wait until January 10th will hit the 12/13th agenda, so it could be a longer than average meeting.”

Follow up questions asking if the council could hold a special meeting either next Tuesday, November 29th or on Tuesday, December 6th to deal with the agenda items planned for December 13th, did not receive a response prior to publication time.

The County Elections office has until December 8th to certify the election. However, County Clerk Joe Canciamilla expects for the ballot count to be completed by Friday, December 2nd. As of last Friday’s update, Wright was leading Harper in the Mayor’s race by 129 votes, with approximately 50,000 ballots left to be counted in the county. How many of those were from Antioch was not known.


11 Comments to “Antioch Council to deal with full agenda, employee contracts during final meeting with current members, Tuesday night”

  1. Marty Fernandez says:

    I agree 100% Allen. Items 12-21 on the agenda disregard the future poor financial conditions of this City. This has been a habit of this council and the city manager. Mr. Thorpe is correct, his four years on the council are going to be very difficult and he will have to deal with the expiration of Measure C. Measure C will not pass again. Five year contracts with labor unions are difficult at best and with the future uncertainty we should not have more than a 2 or 3 year contract. Did we not learn anything with the last 5 year police contract? We need true labor contract negotiators working for the citizens as this city has turned in to Bell, California. Employees and council members should not be members of the negotiating team. This whole thing looks like a parting shot to the citizens by Mr. Harper and Mr. Duran with a Merry Christmas to staff.
    So completely wrong.

  2. Karl dietzel says:

    Irresponsible financial decision .

    Instead of street name changes, I suggest to rename the
    City of antioch to

    City of Bell II

  3. Skip says:

    Spoiler alert, everybody will still get a raise. If you negotiate a two year deal, then they’ll just get another raise then too. The council is in bed with the unions, the police union even endorsed these turkeys while negotiating this contract. It is corrupt to its core. Where is my pension, where are my six figures per year, how about health care? Why provide these things to city employees when the rest of Antioch doesn’t get these guarantees. People will work for so much less, but the city unions are earning way above what they should. While the city is starving our leaders get fat by taxing and fining it’s citizens. The next time you get a parking ticket in a city that doesn’t have a parking problem, just remember that you’re helping to send someone else’s kid to college while your kids skip out.

  4. Julio says:

    This city will not straighten out unless we put wage freezes in effect and can find out how much this city is truly in trouble. They all lie to you so much we need an outside audit or intervention by the state. It is coming. Mr. Jordan’s suit is the tip of the iceberg.

    Tonight was a very expensive city council meeting, VERY expensive and they should be ashamed of themselves.

  5. Eric A. says:

    So.. Let me get this straight. You guys complain that we don’t have enough Police, and you’re also against contracts that would attract them? There are policy’s in place that forbid me from saying what I really feel like saying. Thank you.

    • Skip says:

      My complaint is that the APD police unit was handing out political endorsements at the same time they were negotiating the package. When the former chief of police lost his job, they then rush to ratify a new contract with the politicians who are on their way out. It has nothing to do with attracting more officers and everything to do with influencing how much they get paid by our taxes by handing out political favors. It’s corrupt and the reason why the APD pay is sooooooo much higher than the median wage of its citizens or even other local departments. If they want to give me 10k every month plus pay me even after I retire, sign me up. The problem is that these pay packages don’t go to the residents who struggle to get by, they go to officers who work outside of Antioch and to college educated people who already have plenty of opportunities in the private sector. If Antioch businesses can attract talent at $30k per year and you have to pay your own 401k, why do we need to pay $120k per year and lifetime pensions for the police? It’s a good gig if you’re in the club, if you’re a taxpayer, you’re getting hosed by corrupt back room deals.

      • XXX says:

        Oh it’s a great gig if you are one of the ones retiring at age 50 and moving on to a new career – you won’t hear them complaining. But, for you and me the lowly worker and taxpayer it’s a racket. This is just not the norm in America anywhere that you can collect a full salary pension and full medical benefits – it is unheard of and the Finance officer (city council) as well as the Human Resources manager should take a long look at this – it will bankrupt the city for sure. But, they are dipping in the same bucket so they won’t complain.

        • Julio says:

          With the new demand from CALpers to double the payments due them in February it will bankrupt the city. We are not even making the interest payments on what we owe them now. Anyone that reads the new contract given the employees in the city at last nights meeting will be shocked. It was political no matter how much they deny it and Merry Christmas to the recipients. The rest of us pinch our pennies.

  6. Seemingly says:

    Full salaries pensions coupled with full medical benefits is financially irresponsible and will bankrupt you in no time. Given a lot of these people retire at a younger age – implosion.

  7. Frederick Rouse says:

    I gave this statement to the Council last night. Nothing we could do, but mark my words. I question if you really care about this City over your personal political wants. By paying labor agreements that lack actual funding is a knife in the back of Antioch before you are out the door.

    I hope the labor unions that you have talked to fully understand how bankruptcy of a City can impact personal incomes. Tonight, Your putting Antioch in a position of almost certain bankruptcy. We already carry major unfunded debt on our books and now you add an additional burden for your successor’s to deal with. And that can only be seen as a political move.

    I figure if you lay this groundwork tonight and hurt this City as I know you will, you then as the knights in Shining Amour, can ride back in during the next elections and pretend to save the day. Tonight you plan on taking advantage of a City that is already bruised, battered, underfunded and unsafe for what purpose? For the betterment of our City? Or for the appeasement of your political base and to grease the skids for your future election.

    Hold off any vote and let the new council decide what is best in managing the budget as they will hold the responsibility and accountability to our City and its future.

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