Antioch Mayor asks commission chair to resign for controversial coronavirus comments, refuses, special meeting called for removal

Turnage may first be censured and given opportunity to publicly apologize

Antioch Planning Commission Chair Ken Turnage, II has served as the voice of the parade for both the Antioch July 4th and Holiday DeLites celebrations. Herald file photo.

By Allen Payton

In response to the controversial comments on Facebook by Antioch Planning Commission Chair Ken Turnage, II about ending the shelter-in-place, Mayor Sean Wright has joined with Council Member Monica Wilson who called for Turnage’s removal during Tuesday night’s regular council meeting. (See related article).

In a Thursday press release from City of Antioch Public Information Officer Rolando Bonilla, it states, “Recently, the Chair of the City of Antioch Planning Commission posted a social media communication that does not represent the City of Antioch or the City Council.  The City Council and the public, through comments, emails and phone calls, have questioned the ability of the Chair of the Antioch Planning Commission to represent them and many Antioch residents have called for the commissioner’s resignation or removal.

Mayor Sean Wright spoke to the Chair of the Planning Commission and asked for his resignation from the City of Antioch Planning Commission.  Upon his refusal to resign, Mayor Wright called for a special meeting of the Antioch City Council to discuss the immediate removal of the commissioner from the Planning Commission.

In the City of Antioch, the City Council is committed to maintaining public confidence and trust in our city government.  As public officials in one of the largest and most diverse cities in Contra Costa County, we are called to serve all residents of Antioch; whether young or old, rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy, housed or unhoused.

We wish to emphasize that we remain committed to listening to the public’s concerns, and we recognize that we have an obligation to the residents of the City of Antioch to act swiftly to respond to their concerns.”

Turnage, who it has been rumored was considering running against  Wilson in the November election, responded Thursday morning to her call for his removal with, “I’m not going to step down over a personal opinion that has nothing to do with the City or an opinion that has nothing to do with being a planning commissioner. My opinion isn’t liked, which is fine. But I do find very petty and disheartening that at every opportunity someone like Councilmember Wilson will try and use race! It’s a baiting tactic and is very petty.”

“I’m sorry that this country has the history it does but I don’t see how a virus has anything to do with race, slavery or oppression of any kind. It just shows a low level of mentality that the only thing in someone’s arsenal is the race card,” he added.

When was asked if the council should first vote to censure Turnage and give him the opportunity to apologize before removing him, Wright said he would be speaking with the city attorney about what would be placed on the meeting agenda.

The same question was posed to Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock. She responded “I don’t know. I was just given the invitation for a special meeting. I did speak with Sean earlier and he told me there would be a special meeting.”

When pressed further, she stated, “Not sure at this point if that is a viable solution. The news media has picked it up, Channel 2 reported on it. When you talk about the things that he said, the seniors, the frail, and the weak. Not sure how you can look past that.”

Council Member Lamar Thorpe, who was removed from the Economic Development Commission in 2016 for working against a local business with the card room ballot measure that past that year (see related article), was asked the same question. He responded, “That’s the mayor’s plan.”

“Kenny, as you’ve seen is’nt apologizing for anything as he stands by his comments,” Thorpe added.

Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts responded to the same question with, The mayor spoke with him, apparently he will not back down.

When asked if she was willing to consider censuring Turnage and giving him an opportunity to apologize, first Motts responded, “I am still deliberating on this. Ken has made no attempt to apologize, to the contrary he has doubled down on his comments.”

Wilson was asked the same question about a vote on censure, but she did not respond.

The special meeting will be held Friday, May 1 at 7:00 p.m. and can be viewed on the city’s website by clicking here.

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