Antioch city manager fires city engineer, public works director

As Johnson pursues reorganizing departments, creating new department and position

John Samuelson. Source: LinkedIn

By Allen D. Payton

A little more than a week before Christmas, on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022, Antioch City Manager Con Johnson placed Public Works Director and City Engineer John Samuelson on paid administrative leave for six months. Then in a letter on Dec. 27th Johnson informed Samuelson he was fired effective Jan. 3, 2023.

Now, during tonight’s meeting, Johnson is asking for the council’s support to reorganize both the Public Works and Community Development Departments, including creating a new Engineering Department with a new department head. (See related article)

In an automated response to an email sent by this reporter on December 24, asking about the proposed traffic calming devices on James Donlon Blvd. and Sycamore Drive, Samuelson wrote, “Thank you for contacting the City of Antioch. I have been placed on administrative leave and I do not know if or when I might return.  Please contact Public Works at if you need assistance.”

An email was sent on Dec. 28 to both Johnson and Human Resources Director Ana Cortez asking several questions including, “Why was he placed on paid administrative leave? When did it occur? How long will it last and is he going to return to the position? Who has been appointed the acting head of the Public Works Department in his absence?” No immediate response was received.

Then in a video posted on Mayor Lamar Thorpe’s official Facebook page on Thursday, Jan. 4, Thorpe introduced “our Interim Public Works Director Scott Bunting” and wrote in the post above, “Scott Bunting, Public Works Dir.”

On Sunday, Jan. 8, Cortez responded via email, “We acknowledge you[r] request for information.  We request additional time to respond to your request.”

When asked why he was placed on administrative leave Samuelson said, “He originally told me I would be placed on paid administrative leave for six months. But then in a letter from Con Johnson I was notified I was terminated effective January 3rd.”

“I believe I received the letter on December 27th,” he added.

Asked about his plans Samuelson said, “Today is my second day as the new city engineer and public works director for the City of Pittsburg.”

An email was sent to both Cortez and Johnson asking if Samuelson was fired, “if so, did that comply with the MOU the city’s management team, including department heads, have with the City?” and for any other details related to the matter.

Please check back later for any updates to this report.

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