Following firestorm with police over false information in press release Antioch public information officer fired

Barbanica confirms; Ogorchock reiterates call for investigation of Rolando Bonilla’s recent actions; Bonilla claimed city manager authorized press release

Antioch’s former contracted PIO, Rolando Bonilla. Source:

By Allen D. Payton

In the wake of a recent firestorm with the Antioch police chief and his officers caused by the City’s Public Information Officer Rolando Bonilla, City Manager Con Johnson terminated Bonilla’s contract, it was confirmed, today. According to District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica, who spoke with Johnson Wednesday afternoon, the city manager ended the PIO’s contract in the past few days. Since September 2019 Bonilla was paid $8,000 per month for his work in Antioch through his position as Chief Strategy Advisor with San Jose-based Voler Strategic Advisors, according to his contract and his LinkedIn profile. However, a search on the company’s website resulted in no information about him.

As previously reported, Bonilla issued a press release to KRON-4 News on Friday, Feb. 17, which he claimed Johnson authorized, attributing a false quote to Police Chief Steve Ford that took a swipe at the Antioch Police Officers Association claiming their previous statements critical of Mayor Lamar Thorpe and Bonilla were “circus like antics”. In addition, the press release claimed Bonilla worked with Ford and his team “to develop and distribute a letter to our community where the Antioch Police Department takes full responsibility for the recent burglaries.” But Lt. Michael Mellone, who is in charge of the department’s Community Engagement Unit that includes their own PIO, Ashley Crandell, claimed that wasn’t true, either. He then issued another press release to the Bay Area media asking them to check with him or Crandell on any information they might receive from Bonilla regarding police matters in the city and denying Bonilla worked on the apology press release.

The police department didn’t take responsibility for the burglaries, instead apologized for the slow response times.

But Johnson did not inform at least two of the council members, including Barbanica and District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock, who asked for an investigation of the recent incident and for Bonilla to be let go during Tuesday night’s council meeting. According to Ogorchock, Johnson informed city staff of Bonilla’s termination by email but did not include the mayor or council members.

“I was told an email was sent out,” she said. “I asked if anyone on council had been added to the email and I was told ‘no’. But we didn’t have to be according to what the city attorney told me.”

“Rolando Bonilla needs to be investigated because the press release he sent to KRON-4 was not only impersonating a police officer, but the police chief of Antioch,” Ogorchock exclaimeed. “That’s why I said what I did last night. I believe not only Antioch needs to investigate it but the district attorney needs to investigate it. Whoever authorized that press release needs to be held accountable.”

Questions for City Manager Go Unanswered

Questions were sent late Tuesday night to the city manager, and copying all five council members and City Attorney Thomas L. Smith asking to verify if Bonilla had been terminated from his position as the City’s Public Information Officer and if so, when did that happen and what was the reason.

In addition, Johnson was asked for a copy of his communication with city staff members about the matter. Finally, he was asked if he will be issuing a Request for Proposal for a new City PIO, assigning the responsibilities to an existing staff member or hire a city employee to fill the position.

Neither Johnson nor the other three council members responded as of publication time on Wednesday at 7:25 p.m.


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