Cronyism continues in Antioch City Hall as Johnson appoints friend Ford permanent police chief

Portion of page 4 of the City Manager’s Bi-Monthly Update issued on Nov. 8, 2022, mentions Ford had been appointed permanent police chief on Oct. 23, 2022. Source: City of Antioch

11/22/22 UPDATE: Contract shows Ford’s annual compensation is $256,272 in base salary plus other pay and benefits

Without search as mayor claimed in April had begun or transparent process with public participation, council pre-approval; APOA praises hiring, Ford; city manager doesn’t inform council members until two-and-a-half weeks later; Barbanica says, “I think Ford is good for the department…city”; Ogorchock says “If our officers are pleased…then I’m happy, too”; no contract or info on his compensation released

New Antioch Police Chief Steve Ford as of Oct. 23, 2022. Photo: APD

By Allen D. Payton

Without a search for a new, permanent Antioch police chief, an expected public, transparent process or a formal announcement, on October 23, 2022, then-Interim City Manager Con Johnson appointed Interim Chief Steve Ford to the position it was announced, this week. The Antioch Police Officers’ Association (APOA) praised the decision. As previously reported, Johnson and Ford both served on the San Francisco Police force and Thorpe announced his appointment as interim chief in February. Ford filled the position in April. (See related articles here and here)

11/22/22 UPDATE: Ford’s contract, dated Oct. 24, 2022, shows his annual base salary is $256,272 slightly more than the $252,602.04 salary he was paid as a Commander for the San Francisco Police Department in 2021, according to Transparent California. His total pay including “Other Pay” as listed on that website was $267,331.82 and his benefits cost $82,541.18 and pension cost 10,022.38, that year for total compensation of $359,895.38.

According to his contract with the City of Antioch Ford will also “receive education pay and Senior Officer/Longevity Pay, in accordance with the Antioch Police Sworn Management Association (APSMA) Memorandum of Understanding”. Plus, he can receive an annual cost of living adjustment that other APSMA employees receive as determined by the city manager. Ford’s pay package includes 5 percent of his base salary in Deferred Compensation. S Ford contract 10-24-22

The hiring was announced on page four of Johnson’s City Manager Bi-Monthly Update issued Nov. 8 in a single sentence under Human Resources which reads, “Steven Ford was appointed to Police Chief effective October 23, 2022”. That occurred three days before Johnson was hired by the council as permanent city manager. ACM BM Update 110822

But he didn’t inform the council members until sending them an email on Wednesday, Nov. 9 which read, “Greetings, Honorable Mayor Thorpe and distinguish [sic] council members, this email is to officially inform you that Chief-Dr. Steven A. Ford has been appointed to serve as the permanent Chief of Police of the Antioch Police Department. I have attached a copy of the official press release. In accordance with our Human Resources Department protocols, the official public announcement will be administered via staff report at the next city council regular meeting on Tuesday, November 15, 2020.” Johnson copied Assistant City Manager Rosanna Bayon Moore and Human Resources Director Ana Cortez on the email.

Screenshot of City Manager Con Johnson’s email to council members on Nov. 9, 2022, informing them of Steve Ford’s appointment as the new police chief. Source: City of Antioch

Then a statement was issued by the APOA Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 16 followed later by a post on the Antioch Police Department’s Facebook page which read, “The Antioch Police Department is pleased to announce Dr. Steven Ford has been selected as our permanent Chief!

Chief Ford has 32 years of experience in the industry including vast experience leading major law enforcement reform efforts at the San Francisco Police Department. He came to APD six months ago to serve as interim chief, and during that short time, has had a tremendous impact on our members. Chief Ford has instituted several initiatives to bring us to the forefront of policing in our region and has prioritized continuing education and wellness for all of our staff.

Chief Ford is building on existing ties with our community and mending those which have become frayed over the years. Among his top goals are developing thoughtful community policing strategies that emphasize partnership with those we serve, improving community trust, supporting the development and well-being of our members, while delivering the highest quality service that exemplifies industry best practices.

Please join us in congratulating Chief Ford!

Link to Chief Ford’s Bio:

A press release with the same information was issued by Acting Lt. Michael Mellone on Thursday morning, Nov. 17.

Antioch Police Praise Decision, Ford

However, despite the process, APOA President Rick Hoffman issued the following statement on Wednesday supporting Ford’s appointment:

“The Antioch Police Officers’ Association is excited to learn that Dr. Steven Ford has been officially announced as the Antioch Police Department’s permanent Chief.

From the moment Chief Ford arrived at our department, he has made every effort to support our membership and bring positive change to the department. Chief Ford has earned the trust and respect of the APOA’s membership, and we are committed to working with him to keep the city of Antioch safe.

Since his time began with Antioch PD, Chief Ford has prioritized officer training, wellness and ethics based/intelligence led policing. He also placed leadership development as a priority and created a leadership development program for all ranks throughout the department. His leadership has inspired confidence in his vision amongst our ranks and we look forward to working together for the next five years.”

Ford Offers Thanks, Praises Officers

When reached for comment about his appointment Ford responded, “I’m very grateful for the opportunity to continue my law enforcement career which now spans 32 years. APD has a great compliment of officers who are completely committed to the safety of the city, and I’m honored and privileged to work side by side with each one of them. Moreover, the city of Antioch has a lot of great people, and I’m humbled by their continued support.”

“Moving forward the city has my pledge and commitment to serve with honesty, compassion, and a focused dedication to high quality policing services,” he continued. “As mentioned prior, my focus is public safety, meaningful community engagement, and youth services.”

Council Ignores Own Calls for Recruitment & Hiring Process, Pre-Approval

According to the minutes of the council’s Police Oversight Standing Committee meeting on Oct. 26, 2021, under the agenda item entitled Police Chief Recruitment and Hiring Process, “Mayor Thorpe, Mayor Pro Tem Wilson and Council Member Torres-Walker requested a working draft that includes the following: an external recruitment pool, one representative from each district involved in the hiring process, the City Council’s ability to ratify the contract prior to hiring.”

During the council’s meeting acting as the Police Oversight Standing Committee on Nov. 23, 2021, the agenda item entitled Police Chief Recruitment and Hiring Process was included a recommendation for a “Motion to recommend that the City Council approve a policy by formal action at a regular meeting of the Antioch City Council. OR Provide direction to staff in accordance with the standing committee’s instructions.”

However, the topic for discussion was never again included on the agendas for the three committee meetings held this year in January, March and April. All other meetings of the committee planned this year were cancelled.

Thorpe Claimed Recruitment Process Had Started, No Plans to Make Ford Permanent

Yet, in April Mayor Lamar Thorpe said there weren’t plans to hire Ford as permanent police chief and that the hiring process had already begun. As previously reported, following Ford’s grand oath of office ceremony on April 27, 2022, Thorpe was asked if there were plans to move him into the permanent position as police chief. He responded, “No. You know that one of our police reform measures is the hiring process.” Asked if the council will start that process, this year or wait until the end of the year, the mayor stated, “no, we’ve started that process.”

But because Johnson, as interim city manager, was given the full authority to hire and fire department heads by the city council majority, he chose to make Ford the permanent police chief and the decision did not require council approval nor public input.

Questions for Some Councilmembers, City Staff Go Unanswered

The councilmembers were asked via email Thursday morning about Johnson hiring Ford for the permanent position and about the hiring process sought by the majority of members of the Police Oversight Standing Committee. “Did that process occur?” they were asked, and “If not, why not and how do you know Steve is the best possible choice for the position?” Johnson was also asked the latter question.

The council members were also asked, “Wasn’t the council going to decide who would be the permanent police chief and use a transparent process in which residents would be involved?” and “Why didn’t that happen?”

They were also asked, when they were informed Johnson was going to make the decision to hire Ford on a permanent basis and if they had seen Ford’s contract prior to this hiring.

Johnson was asked for Ford’s compensation, including his annual salary and benefits, and Ford, H.R. Director Ana Cortez and City Attorney Thomas Lloyd Smith were asked for a copy of Ford’s contract.

Ford was also asked if he had any comment he wanted to add about his promotion to the permanent position. He responded, “Unfortunately, I’m not at liberty to discuss the nuances of my contractual agreement.”

Ogorchock, Barbanica Didn’t Learn of Hiring Until Nov. 9, Support Ford

Ogorchock responded saying she learned of the appointment in the email to councilmembers on Nov 9th. “I want to support the police department. If our officers are pleased with Steve being permanent police chief and he brings stability to the department then I’m happy, too. I believe in Steve and his core values and what he’s brought to our city. But I was quite surprised it hadn’t gone through the process as discussed during previous council meetings and on the day he was given his oath of office.”

Barbanica also responded saying, “I got a text message with the rest of the council from Con on the 9th at 9:20 a.m. I learned of it on the 8th, when I was contacted by a member of the community asking if I was aware of the appointment mentioned in Con’s Bi-Monthly Update. I said, ‘no, I’m not’.”

“I will say I think Steve Ford is good for the department and good for the city based on everything I’ve seen. I do support a public process. However, being that wasn’t adhered to, I do feel the man we are talking about here is good for the department,” he explained. “I’ve been very clear all along. For city manager, for chief I do support a public process. We have two separate issues. Is he good for the department? Yes, he is. Did we adhere to the process? No. But the candidate has nothing to do with the process. I do feel that the candidate Con selected is a strong candidate.”

“While I support a public process, and I mean transparency, and I did not vote for this city manager, I still believe the final decision should be with the city manager, no matter who it is,” Barbanica added.

In addition, APOA President Hoffman was asked how and when his organization had learned of Ford’s appointment. He responded, “The POA learned of Chief Ford’s appointment about a week ago when the City Manager released it in his bi-weekly newsletter.”

No other council or staff members responded prior to publication time. A Public Records Act request for Ford’s compensation and contract was submitted via email late Friday afternoon, Nov. 18. The city staff members have 10 days to respond.

Please check back later for any updates to this report.

the attachments to this post:

S Ford contract 10-24-22

ACM BM Update 110822

CM 11-08-22 BiMonthly Update p4 announcement

CJohnson email re SFord 11-09-22

APD Chief Steve Ford

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