Former Antioch mayors, councilmembers take issue with Thorpe’s claim they’re guilty of “absolute murder” for lack of oversight of APD

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe gestures while accusing former councils of getting away with “absolute murder” during angry, raise voice rant on matter of the city council directly hiring the police chief at their meeting on Tuesday, August 22, 2023. Council meeting video screenshot.

Deny current problems were “decades in the making”

“I am not aware of any city councils on which I have served committing any acts of murder. Additionally, I am not aware of any of my fellow city council members committing acts of arson, burglary, nor being arrested or cited for DUI – driving under the influence (with Blood Alcohol Levels of .121% and .124%) or allegedly sexually harassing any women resulting in any settlements with the county for $350,000 or in a fit of rage challenging any community members to step outside to fight.” – former Mayor Wade Harper (2012-16)

Thorpe does not back up claims, apologize

By Allen D. Payton

During the Antioch City Council meeting Tuesday night, August 22, 2023, Mayor Lamar Thorpe reacted angrily to comments by former councilman Ralph Hernandez, who accused the mayor and District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson of ignoring his accusations against Antioch police officers, including murder, before Thorpe was elected mayor. Thorpe claimed if they had it would have been illegal and that it was not appropriate to be done in a closed session meeting of the city council. Later in the meeting, the mayor accused Hernandez, who was elected in 1992, former Mayor Don Freitas, who served from 2000 to 2008 and all former councils of getting “away with murder, absolute murder, because of a lack of oversight of the police department.”

Thorpe’s Accusations

As previously reported, Thorpe said in his comments on the agenda item regarding the council directly hiring and supervising the police chief instead of the city manager (See 1:16:00 mark of council meeting video), “What has happened in our city…residents like them and city councils in the past have failed to provide oversight of the police department. Ralph Hernandez was a member of the city council. He failed to provide oversight of the Antioch Police Department because this was decades in the making,” he shouted, raising his voice louder. (Hernandez served on the city council from 1992 to 1995).

“Who was the mayor when you got beat up?” Thorpe asked a member of the audience. “Don Freitas was the mayor. He failed to provide oversight of the police department.” (Freitas was elected to the city council in 1998 and served as mayor from 2000-2008).

“So, you can come in here and point the finger all you want. I don’t give a damn,” Thorpe continued with a raised voice. “Because the residents of this community have demanded the change we’re making, here today if the council continues in this direction. Because for decades residents like you have allowed the council to get away with murder, absolute murder, in failure to provide oversight.”

Former Mayors and Councilmembers Respond

Those accusations aren’t sitting well with many former Antioch mayors and council members, including the two he mentioned directly by name, who were asked if they had a response.

Former Councilman Ralph Hernandez, who served on the council from 1992-95 responded to Thorpe’s direct accusation against him with, “both myself and my wife Norma Hernandez, who served on the council from 1996-1998, as well as other past Antioch Mayors and Council Members, served on the Antioch City Council and we never ‘swept under the rug’ or covered up any known or reported Antioch Police misconduct, especially any reported crimes or reported Murders by some of the Antioch Police.

As many of our citizens are now realizing, our current mayor, Lamar Thorpe, falsely tries to deflect his own questioned responsibility in doing so! He tries to deflect his own failures and potential crimes to others and again tries to rant and rave to his supporters, how everyone else is responsible.

I have repeatedly reported criminal police misconduct in accordance with the laws and can, and will, provide witnesses, evidence, circumstances, etc., to back up what I have reported over the years! This too I have done over the years via the F.B.I. and the D.A.’s Office, to include to our city council and past city manager! Not my/our fault that Mayor Thorpe and Councilwoman Monica Wilson did nothing known about it (the reported murders and other discovered felony crimes by a small ‘gang’ of Antioch Detectives/Officers). The suspected coverups of such serious matters includes recent past Antioch Police Chiefs who were reported to also, and the reporting will back it up as to their involvement!

It is overdue that a criminal Grand Jury be empaneled by the District Attorney’s Office to look into these matters, as I also have requested over these past years! Those responsible also, as accessories under the law, to include the suspected coverups by past identified Antioch police chiefs, Mayor Thorpe, Councilwoman Wilson, etc., need to be held accountable too!

Our Antioch community needs a serious cleanup from these unresolved matters, and bring back the Antioch community to a sane environment that we all deserve!”

Former Mayor Don Freitas, who was first elected to the city council in 1998 and then elected mayor in 2000 and again in 2004, responded to Thorpe’s direct attack on him with, “Here’s my response to Lamar’s comment about me: Lamar Thorpe is a very paranoid individual. If you are not hundred percent in lock step with him, he will do everything in his power to ridicule you, immediately call you a racist and try to slander your reputation.

His off the wall comments last night regarding oversight of the Police Department when I was Mayor is completely and utterly without merit. Clearly, he will lie and distort the truth only as an attempt to make himself politically popular in the community. How sad. How very sad. He needs help.”

Former Mayor Wade Harper, who was elected to the city council in 2010, then elected the City’s first Black mayor in 2012, issued a press release entitled ‘Lead With Excellence and Integrity’ to local media on Thursday, referring to himself as a “Private Citizen”, responding to Thorpe’s accusation.

“Allen Payton contacted me and asked if I had a response to the current mayor calling the previous city councils ‘murderers.’ I did not watch the city council meeting. I have since read the quote. There is a professional courtesy that former mayors extend to the current mayor. We realize that the current mayor has the mandated responsibility to make decisions for the city, along with his or her city council. I may privately disagree with certain decisions, but typically I avoid public criticism, because I understand that each administration faces unique challenges, and they must act according to their own judgment. I refrain from publicly criticizing the current administration. I think my stand of unity and support could be more beneficial to the city’s overall well-being rather than constantly criticizing everything this city council does.

When the current mayor was elected, I called him on election night and congratulated him. We shared a private laugh. I also offered that he could call upon me if he needed to. I could offer advice from what I learned from the challenges that I experienced.

Advice #1 Lead with excellence and integrity and be the leader that you want to see.

Advice #2 Don’t pass the buck – take accountability for what happens on your watch. It is easy to blame previous administrations. What I learned about blame is that there is always plenty to go around.

Advice #3 Show love to your community as well as your colleagues on the city council. And give a listening ear.

Like most Antioch residents, I am certainly saddened and angered by the acts and racist texts committed by certain police officers (not all officers). I am not always happy with this current city council. I understand that they have a tough job, navigating these uncharted waters of overt, racial discrimination, and criminal insensitivity.

Now, as far as the bashing of previous city councils, let me say this. To say that previous city councils have committed “murder” because of lack of police oversight is irresponsible. This is a very harsh and mean-spirit statement toward your former colleagues who led with integrity and excellence. Do not lead with anger, vendetta, and vitriol.

‘Residents like you have allowed the council to get away with murder, absolute murder, because of a lack of oversight,’ – mayor Lamar Thorpe to Hernandez, the main opponent of the change. (Emphasis included)

The Antioch city council has decided to grant themselves the authority to hire and fire the police chief. Now that you have made that decision, consider attending a Citizen’s Academy to learn more about the law enforcement profession so you can lead effectively. You will learn what the word ‘murder’ truly means and how families and lives are impacted by such a tragic crime. Antioch is hurting right now, and we need leaders who will lead. Return the hiring authority back to the city manager ASAP so that you won’t be tempted to put politics into the profession.

I am proud to have served the City of Antioch as mayor, alongside very fine city councils, city managers and police chiefs. I maintained open communication with the police chief and received regular reports on crime as well as plans on making the community safer. Yes, we also addressed personnel matters in closed sessions a few times. So, the current mayor should not blame past city councils for the unique problems and issues that this current city council now faces.

So, for the record, all past city councils, including myself, have made mistakes. But I am not aware of any city councils on which I have served committing any acts of murder. Additional I am not aware of any of my fellow city council members committing acts of arson, burglary, nor being arrested or cited for DUI – driving under the influence (with Blood Alcohol Levels of .121% and .124%) or allegedly sexually harassing any women resulting in any settlements with the county for $350,000 or in a fit of rage challenging any community members to step outside to fight.”

Former Mayor Joel Keller, who served from 1984-94, responded with, “You’re right. APD was a different department in the past. It might be helpful if someone unemotionally explained how the change occurred. The accused officers are assumed innocent until proven guilty, but the breath of the allegations suggest a breakdown of leadership. I don’t mean political leadership, but rather management. Let’s start with who approved the President of the APOA being responsible for disciplinary investigations. My mother who only had a primary education would say that’s like ‘putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.’ I don’t know who is responsible, but an action like that violates Human Resources best practices and any peace officer with administrative responsibilities would have been taught that when they were promoted to manager.

APD needs to change and needs responsible leadership. Mayor Thorpe may not be the best spokesperson for change, but he is right about the need for reform. I was a peace officer for 35 years and the Mayor of Antioch for 10. I am embarrassed by the almost daily revelations about alleged wrongdoing. (Really, tequila to fix tickets?)

Someone, maybe the Antioch Herald, needs to get past the name calling and investigate what changed at APD that enabled this despicable conduct to not only exist, but flourish.”

Former Mayor Mary Rocha, who served on the council a few times, and mayor from 1996-2000, and who is and the current Antioch School Board Area 5 Trustee, responded with, “He’s trying to point fingers at everyone else. But things didn’t start to fall apart until after he was elected then elected mayor. A good example is he took away our money to put the resource officers into the school system.” (See related article)

Former Mayor Jim Davis, who was elected to the city council in 1998 and mayor in 2008 said in a direct response, “Mr. Mayor, you owe every prior mayor and councilmember for the past 30 years an apology or at least a retraction. No council allowed anyone to get away with murder, your comments are slanderous against all of the citizens of Antioch. You should be held liable.”

Former Councilwoman Norma Hernandez added her own comments to those by her husband about Thorpe’s accusation saying, “Mayor Thorpe can’t blame the past councils in the City of Antioch for what is happening, today that he, himself ignored and has created. He has to stop blaming others from the past. He needs to look in the mirror. I have been here for years, and I have never seen Antioch in this condition, and it has escalated within the last few years, big time.

What he has to start doing is knowing what his job truly is and stop attacking people from the dais. That is not lawful for him to do so. Those people are not on the agenda, and he calls them by name.

We didn’t have these problems with the police department when we were on the council. He’s lying through his teeth. Any issue with the police, we took care of, and it was confidential because it was a personnel matter. We didn’t ignore anything. He’s full of it. There was never anything like this.

He’s covering up for his incompetence, currently. He’s following the old game of, ‘look over there, look over here’ while he’s the one destroying the community. He’s trying to get the focus off of him when the real problem is him. He’s blaming everyone else for his deficiencies as the mayor.

The bottom line is, all the people he’s holding responsible and criticizing, currently I would vote for any of them over him.”

“I never hear anyone on the council, or the city attorney tell Thorpe, ‘point of order’ when he’s breaking the rules by calling people out by name. He can’t do that. None of the council members can,” Hernandez stated. “Definitely, he needs to go away. Next year the voters can make that happen. All the people he criticized have supporters in this town and they no longer support him and want him to step down.”

Former Councilman and City Clerk Arne Simonsen responded with, “I find the actions of Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe to be unbelievable! During my eight years on the city council (2000-2008) I routinely visited the Antioch Police Department, speaking with officers, dispatchers and Community Service Officers. I doubt Thorpe ever did that. I also doubt if Thorpe, Wilson or Walker know anything about PORAC (Police Officers Research Association of California). I attended several statewide PORAC conferences. The council I served on all had great relations with our police officers. Moving the hiring of the police chief, and the police department under the control of the city council is simply wrong. It belongs under the direction of the City Manager who knows municipal and Human Relations laws and responsibilities.

We had a mayor and a couple council members who don’t even understand the Map Act, let alone what PORAC does. I can only hope that a referendum could overturn this ordinance or that a new council rescinds it as the first order of business. Arne Simonsen, MMC” (Master Municipal Clerk)

Former Councilwoman Joy Motts, when reached for comment about Thorpe’s accusation responded, “Well if that is true then he and especially Monica are part of the problem. The truth is that none of us were aware that there were issues within APD, I think a realization many communities came to in 2020 and over the last few years.”

She also wrote about the police body cameras and Thorpe’s initial opposition to them, and then his delay in getting them approved.

“What frosts me is, as one of the last actions in Nov. 2020 after I lost reelection was that I brought forward an opportunity to purchase body cameras for our police officers,” Motts continued. “Chief Brooks and the City Attorney encouraged me to bring forward a motion to use roll over funds that we were determining it’s use at that meeting to use for body cameras.  We had close to $400,000.  Body cameras were not in our budget, so this was a perfect opportunity to help APD and the citizens of Antioch.

Lamar, who had won his election for mayor, Monica and Sean and Lori voted it down.  So, we had an opportunity to bring body cameras six months before Lamar brought them forward the next year, delaying the much needed transparency the community wanted.  Why did he do this? Because it had to be him that brought forward the idea…rather than doing what was the most expedient and best for the community. It’s all about him!
It’s a matter of public record… our meetings were all Zoom, then. I am not sure of the exact date of the meeting or the exact dollar amount. But both Chief Brooks and Thomas, the city attorney were supporting this and so was I. I was shocked that Lamar, who was running on police reform, passed up on this opportunity and great first step. It’s on the record.”

Current District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica also weighed in saying, “I think it was a ridiculous statement and I know we have three council members, including the mayor, who have served multiple terms while these issues were occurring. They need to step up, stop blaming others and take responsibility.”

Questions for Thorpe Go Unanswered, Opportunity to Apologize Ignored

Efforts to reach Thorpe via email and voicemail with questions Thursday evening were unsuccessful prior to publication time. He was asked who it was that he claims was murdered by Antioch Police officers, which officers is he claiming committed the murders, if they are those mentioned by Mr. Hernandez in his report which he claims Thorpe ignored and would not listen to in closed session. The mayor was also asked if he has any proof to substantiate his accusations.

Thorpe also claimed in his comments that it was illegal to consider personnel matters such as the allegations by Mr. Hernandez in closed session. The mayor was asked, “Isn’t that when and where personnel matters are supposed to be discussed?”

Finally, Thorpe was given the opportunity, after having a couple days to think about, and asked if he is willing to apologize to the past mayors and council members for his accusation against them.

But he did not respond prior to publication time. Please check back later for any updates to this report.

the attachments to this post:

Mayor Thorpe accusation 082223

No Comments so far.

Leave a Reply