Antioch Council meets with more than one interim city manager candidate

But doesn’t negotiate contract during almost two-hour closed-door morning session

By Allen Payton

This morning, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, the Antioch City Council held a special, closed session meeting at 9:00 a.m., to discuss the recruitment of and to negotiate with a potential interim city manager candidate, according to the agenda. However, the council met with more than one candidate. The council did not discuss the recruitment process for hiring a more permanent manager as was previously and incorrectly reported. (See related article)

It is the result of the announcement by City Manager Ron Bernal in September that he is retiring at the end of the year. (See related article)

The items on the agenda were publicly noticed as, “1) PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT: Recruitment of City Manager pursuant to Government Code section 54957, and 2) CONFERENCE WITH LABOR NEGOTIATORS pursuant to Government Code section 54957.6. Unrepresented employee: Interim City Manager Candidate.”

There were no public comments made about either item, prior to closed session. After almost two hours, the council returned to open session and City Attorney Thomas L. Smith said, “no reportable action was taken,” regarding the recruitment process.

Then on the matter of negotiating with a candidate to be interim city manager, Smith said, “it was not discussed by the city council and no reportable action was taken.” However, that was not completely accurate.

Questions were sent to Smith, City Manager Ron Bernal and Mayor Lamar Thorpe asking, “will the process for hiring an interim city manager and recruitment to fill the position be shared during a public council meeting? Will the candidates for both be interviewed in public, so the public will have the opportunity to comment on them, and will the council take their votes during a public meeting before they are hired, as has been past practice? Is that legally required?”

In addition, the following questions were also asked of Thorpe and all four council members: “why was the meeting held today and in the morning? Did you or the council change your minds and decide not to negotiate with an interim candidate? Why didn’t that occur? Did the candidate withdraw their interest in the position? Will you be voting in public when hiring the interim and filling the city manager position, and allow the public to give their input before you do?”

District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock responded with, “Please contact the city attorney to give you clarity.”

The city attorney was then asked about his report from the closed session regarding negotiations with the interim city manager candidate, including, “does that mean the council changed their minds and decided not to negotiate with an interim candidate and no candidate participated in the closed session? Or did the candidate withdraw their interest in the position?”

Attorney Smith was also asked, “did a candidate or more than one candidate for the position of interim city manager attend and participate in that part of the closed session and negotiate with the city council members? If so, that isn’t a matter of secrecy since it was agendized as such, correct?”

When reached for comment, District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica said he spoke with Smith to get clarification. “Everything followed the agenda,” Barbanica said. “We did what the council agenda said.”

“Yes, we did in fact meet with potential candidates for the interim city manager position,” he confirmed. “But I can’t discuss the details of closed session meetings.”

“The other item was in terms of a contract with the interim candidates, and we never got to that,” Barbanica added. “That’s what Thomas was referring to.”

Smith later responded, further clarifying the agenda items and what transpired, “The meeting with candidates was covered under Item 1.  Item 2, terms of contract, was not discussed. Both items concern the Interim City Manager position.”

Additional questions were then sent to all five council members, asking, “How were the candidates with whom you met, this morning, recruited? Were any of them suggested by any of you? Was something posted somewhere publicly or internally to city staff?”

No responses to the other questions of council and staff were received prior to publication time.

Please check back later for any updates to this report.


the attachments to this post:

ACC meeting 110221 screenshot

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