Antioch Council to consider hiring next police chief directly, instead of city manager


Will discuss future relevance of Police Crime Prevention Commission; Chief to give department’s annual 411 on 4-11

By Allen D. Payton

During their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 11, 2023, the Antioch City Council will consider a proposal to hire the next police chief directly instead of the city manager. They will also hear the 2022 Annual Police Department Update from Chief Steve Ford and discuss the “future relevance of the Police Crime Prevention Commission”, now that the council has formed a Police Oversight Commission.

Prior to their regular meeting at 7:00 p.m., the council will meet in Closed Session at 5:00 p.m. on an anticipated lawsuit and real estate negotiations with Con Fire for property located at E. 18th and Wilson Streets. That will be followed by a Budget Study Session at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at 200 H Street in Antioch’s historic, downtown Rivertown.

How the City’s organizational structure would be if the council decides to directly hire the police chief.

Police Chief Hiring by Council Discussion

According to the City staff report on the discussion of the council directly hiring the police chief (Item 5), “City councils are granted wide latitude in deciding how a city will be administered and

operated. The Government Code provides a city council with the statutory authority to appoint and remove the chief of police.”

Antioch currently has a council-manager form of government in which the city manager hires each of the department heads, including the police chief. The council is being asked to “provide direction to staff regarding whether to prepare an ordinance changing the organizational structure of the City’s administration by transferring, from the City Manager to the City Council, the authority to appoint, supervise, and remove the Chief of Police.”

The idea was proposed in 2021 by Mayor Lamar Thorpe, Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker and District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson. Furthermore, according to the staff report, “At the November 23, 2021 meeting, former City Manager Ron Bernal prepared a staff report on the City’s “Police Chief Recruitment and Hiring Process”. Councilmember Barbanica made a motion to approve the policy prepared by City Manager Bernal. The motion was seconded by Councilmember Ogorchock, but it failed with only Councilmembers Barbanica and Ogorchock voting in favor of it. Mayor Pro Tem Wilson and Councilmember Torres-Walker voted against the motion. Mayor Thorpe was absent.”

But no additional action was taken on the proposal, until now, following the council placing City Manager Con Johnson on paid leave as well as the two investigations of police officers, one by the FBI and DA’s office for alleged “crimes of moral turpitude” and the other internal investigation for the recently reported alleged racist and other offensive text messages. (See related articles here, here, here and here)

According to the City’s contract with Ford, who started in his permanent position on October 23, 2022, it runs through October 22, 2027. Should the council direct staff to bring back a proposed ordinance for a vote and it was adopted, they could then terminate Ford’s contract.

However, if the council does so without cause, the chief must be given six months advance notice of his termination and following he would be paid a severance of his full salary for up to six months or until he finds “comparable employment” for which he is paid 75% or more of his current $256,272 annual salary plus benefits. If the council fires Ford for cause, then no advanced notice is required, and no severance is required to be paid.

Questions for Council Members

The five council members were asked why the matter is on Tuesday night’s agenda since Ford’s contract lasts until October 2027 and if there are plans to terminate him and hire his replacement. They were also asked, if so, would they pursue a nationwide search for a new police chief, as both Torres-Walker said she wanted, and Thorpe confirmed he would do for a new city manager.

District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock was the only one to respond prior to publication time. She wrote, “Item #5 was a shock to see on the agenda.

I have no intention of firing Chief Ford, nor do I have a desire to request for the Acting City Manager Ebbs to do so either. Chief Ford is doing an amazing job with all the obstacles being tossed at him. He comes to work daily with a positive attitude and a love for the City of Antioch. Chief Ford will handle all these distractions upon completion of the investigation.

We should remind ourselves not to convict individuals until all the facts have been discovered. So many times, we want to shout guilty before all the evidence is presented, we need not to do that.”

As previously reported, Torres-Walker recently offered her public support for Ford. In an April 6th post on her official Facebook page she wrote, “I trust…the Leadership of Chief Ford.”

The meeting can be viewed in person, where public comments can only be offered, or via livestream on the City’s website, on Comcast cable TV channel 24 or AT&T U-verse channel 99.

Please check back later for any updates to this report.

the attachments to this post:

Antioch Council-Manager Form of Govt Proposed diagram

Antioch Council-Manager Form of Govt Current diagram

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