Antioch Council approves spending $39,000 for invalid contracted work by outside attorney on 3-2 vote

Thorpe, Torres-Walker, Wilson claim they voted to hire legal counsel after being told not to by city attorney three times according to Barbanica; Ogorchock claims no formal action was taken; mayor says she’s “playing games”

By Allen D. Payton

At the beginning of the regular meeting of the Antioch City Council on Tuesday, April 25, 2023, City Attorney Thomas L. Smith reported out from Closed Session that there was “no reportable action” on the lawsuit against the City, six police officers and three police chiefs over the racist texts and other actions. There was also no reportable action on the performance evaluation of the city attorney.

Then, during the Consent Calendar portion of the agenda, District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock requested Items C, M and O be pulled and voted on separately. The council removed those three items and approved the other items on a 5-0 vote.

The only matter of contention during the meeting was Item O on the Consent Calendar, regarding paying fees totaling almost $39,000 to an outside attorney hired on a procedurally invalid contract by City Manager Con Johnson. (See related articles here and here)

Resident Andrew Becker was the only member of the public to speak on the item. He said, “I don’t understand why the mayor is having communications with outside counsel, outside these chambers. There are no report outs.”

Mayor Lamar Thorpe laughed in response saying, “Mostly inaccurate, Andrew. But thank you.”

District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica said, “I’ve gotten a lot of calls about this. I can’t talk about personnel matters. This is titled an invalid contract. I want to make it crystal clear. I have not supported this contract. I don’t support this contract. The city attorney has warned us three times we can’t support this invalid contract. But this is why we ended up where we are.”

“I too did not vote on this,” Ogorchock stated. “There was no formal council action on this. I, too, do not believe in this contract.”

“I just want to let the public know I did vote on this, and we are supposed to have legal counsel to notify what we can or can’t do,” Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker said. “Who is watching over the people who are watching over the people?”

“I too voted for this because we needed outside oversight,” District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson said.

“I can only say ‘ditto’ to what the two council members said,” Thorpe said. “Not asking questions is how we got to where we are.”

“Our city manager and city attorney work for this body. Period. They are not our veto power. They don’t tell us what to do. We tell them what to do,” he continued. “Was there maybe something procedurally done, here? I don’t give a damn. We’re going to do what we need to do to ensure we have accountability in this city. It doesn’t matter who it is…if it’s the city attorney. We’re going to fix this and bring back a proper process.”

Ogorchock said, “I’d like to know what that meeting was about…and the half hour meeting.”

“I know the game you’re trying to play, Councilwoman Ogorchock…I get the little games. We’re not playing the games,” Thorpe shot back.

“It was to brief us on the very packet that was put on the agenda. I included Mayor Pro Tem Torres-Walker because I was in and out because of my father,” Thorpe responded.

The second one, the conversation had to do with personnel matters so I’m not going to discuss it,” he added.

“There are people who believe in accountability and there are those who don’t. We do,” Thorpe stated.

The motion passed 3-2 with Barbanica and Ogorchock voting no.

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