Antioch Council hires “Con” Johnson as permanent city manager for two years on split vote

Extends current contract by 22 months, includes severance package, will be paid $266,400 annual salary

“Tonight’s process degrades the city manager’s position to little more than a political patronage job,” – resident Dr. Jeffrey Klingler

Approves new Travis Credit Union building; contractor for mental health response team, naming it after Angelo Quinto

Antioch City Manager Cornelius “Con” Johnson.

By Allen D. Payton

With only two weeks before the November election, during their meeting Tuesday night, Oct. 25, 2022, the Antioch City Council on a 3-2 vote appointed Interim City Manager Cornelius “Con” Johnson as the permanent city manager for another 22 months. Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica and District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock dissented.

According to the staff report, the initial term of the agreement will be for a period of 24 months beginning 12:00 a.m., October 26, 2022, and shall continue until 12:00 a.m., October 26, 2024. Johnson’s prior contract, which is set to expire on December 12, 2022, expired at midnight and will be superseded by the new agreement.

Selects Mental Health Crisis Response Team Pilot Program Contractor

In addition, on a 5-0 vote, the council selected the Felton Institute to provide non-police community crisis intervention services. According to the city staff report, “The Crisis Antioch Response Team (CART) Pilot Program will operate for a minimum two-year duration. The program’s estimated cost per the program design forecast by Urban Strategies Council is between $1.8 and $2.2 million per year. Per Antioch City Council action on April 12, 2022, American Recue Plan Act (ARPA) funding has been allocated for this specified purpose in the total amount of $3.6M. The final fee is yet to be negotiated and will be captured in the final agreement for City Council action.”

The program will establish “a 24-hour community crisis intervention response model for Antioch residents” which is intended “to improve the City’s response to behavioral health, quality of life and lower acuity calls.”

The council authorized “the City Manager to enter into negotiations with the Felton Institute regarding the final scope of work and fee associated for the City’s Crisis Antioch Response Team (CART) Pilot Program.” The Professional Services Agreement will be presented to the city council for final review and approval.

During council discussion District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson asked that the program be named the Angelo Quinto Response Team instead.

“I want to say to the Quinto family, you lost your son, that’s how we got here,” District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker said. “Your loss has spurred some change, but it didn’t have to happen.”

“I haven’t found an officer who doesn’t want this,” Thorpe said. “They didn’t sign up to be clinicians, counselors and they didn’t sign up to be teachers, so we’re not putting them in our schools, either.”

Torres-Walker, Ogorchock and Wilson said they would support the renaming.

Barbanica said, “I understand why we’re doing this. What I don’t want is between the officers and individuals they’re working with, friction. But I want to be very straightforward that the Antioch Police Department has been cleared of any wrongdoing. That being said, yes, I will support that.”

Thorpe added his support to renaming the program. Wilson then made a motion to approve selecting the Felton Institute and naming it the Angelo Quinto Crisis Response Team and it passed unanimously.

Later during public comments on another item, Katherine Wade, who claims her son, Malad Baldwin, took his life following an incident with Antioch Police officers in which she says they beat him, said the program name should remain CART and not be named for Quinto. During general, public comments at the end of the meeting Antioch resident Lacey Brown said she agreed with Wade.

Rendering of the northside, Hillcrest Avenue elevation of the new Travis Credit Union building. By BHDP Architecture

Approve New Building for Travis Credit Union

In other action, on a 5-0 vote the council approved the final development plan for a new Travis Credit Union building at 3500 Hillcrest Avenue, just east of the Hillcrest Professional Center. According to the city staff report, “The subject site is a 1.48-acre vacant parcel. The project scope includes the construction of a new 3,525 square foot bank building with a drive-up ATM. Site improvements include the construction of a new parking lot, site lighting, landscaping and stormwater detention basins. The site will have 27 off-street parking spaces. Operating hours are proposed to be 10 am-5:30 pm, Monday – Friday, 10 am – 2 pm on Saturday and closed on Sundays. There will be a total of 11 full-time employees on a typical shift.”

City Manager Appointment

Before voting on Johnson’s contract appointing him as the permanent city manager, Ogorchock asked, “Since we didn’t get to that, do we have to table this?”

“That’s placed there as a courtesy,” Thorpe said. “You can ask your questions in public.”

“No one can say he’s the best candidate…because this council didn’t engage in a fair, open and equitable, professionally managed process,” resident Dr. Jeffrey Klingler said. “Tonight’s process degrades the city manager’s position to little more than a political patronage job. He deserves more than that and more importantly the city deserves more than that.”

“You can table this item and do a proper search for a city manager,” he added.

Five people spoke in favor of Johnson’s appointment including Pittsburg resident Willie Mims and Contra Costa County 2022 Humanitarian of the Year Gigi Crowder, Frank Sterling and Patricia Granados.

“You have not given us a process to get the best candidate. I don’t know you, Mr. Johnson,” said District 1 Council candidate Diane Gibson-Gray. “In less than 13 days and one hour you could have a new council up there. He has a contract through 12-12. I don’t understand the rush.”

A resident named Johnny Walker spoke via Zoom saying, “I really have a problem with this appointment of the city manager. He’s very inexperienced. Since it was the mayor’s idea, the mayor’s appointment, he campaigned for the mayor. The mayor has been making some really bad decisions, and this is one of them. Mr. Johnson spent $30,000 on bouncy houses.”

“It smells like there’s burning here,” City Clerk Ellie Householder then said.

“Oh, maybe someone set my car on fire,” Thorpe responded.

Public comments on the city manager’s appointment then continued.

“It’s a relief to have someone that understands something that happened to me,” Sterling said. “I’m not saying Mr. Johnson has sat down and had a heart to heart…with me. We can find someone probably better. I don’t know if we can or not. Let’s give this man a chance. Congratulations, sir. Welcome to your new appointment. I wish you luck and to the city.”

“I’m excited the direction the City of Antioch is going in,” Granados said. “Wait until after the next election? That’s the problem. No. We don’t have time to wait. Policies need to be put in place. The right money needs to be spent. We don’t need to wait until after the next election.”

During council discussion, Thorpe sought input from the council saying, “In discussion with the city manager, he discussed a two-year term.”

He then recommended a two-year contract at Step C for Johnson’s annual salary of $266,400.

Torres-Walker made the motion, Wilson seconded it.

Ogorchock then made a substitute motion, “That we have an open process and send it out.”

“I don’t think you can make that motion because this is on the contract,” Thorpe said.

“That is correct. You can vote this down and talk about that on another item,” City Attorney Thomas L. Smith said.

The motion then passed 3-2 with Barbanica and Ogorchock voting against.

During the Council Communications portion of the meeting, Torres-Walker took the opportunity to issue one of her periodic, racially filled, vitriolic diatribes – this time prepared in writing – in which she took swipes at her two election opponents, Diane Gibson-Gray and Joy Motts, local media, Barbanica and Ogorchock, but praised Wilson.

Householder then announced that Thorpe had postponed the next regular council meeting scheduled for Election Night, Nov. 8th until Tuesday, Nov. 15th.

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