Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

Antioch Council hires “Con” Johnson as permanent city manager for two years on split vote

Wednesday, October 26th, 2022

Extends current contract by 22 months, includes severance package, will be paid $266,400 annual salary

“Tonight’s process degrades the city manager’s position to little more than a political patronage job,” – resident Dr. Jeffrey Klingler

Approves new Travis Credit Union building; contractor for mental health response team, naming it after Angelo Quinto

Antioch City Manager Cornelius “Con” Johnson.

By Allen D. Payton

With only two weeks before the November election, during their meeting Tuesday night, Oct. 25, 2022, the Antioch City Council on a 3-2 vote appointed Interim City Manager Cornelius “Con” Johnson as the permanent city manager for another 22 months. Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica and District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock dissented.

According to the staff report, the initial term of the agreement will be for a period of 24 months beginning 12:00 a.m., October 26, 2022, and shall continue until 12:00 a.m., October 26, 2024. Johnson’s prior contract, which is set to expire on December 12, 2022, expired at midnight and will be superseded by the new agreement.

Selects Mental Health Crisis Response Team Pilot Program Contractor

In addition, on a 5-0 vote, the council selected the Felton Institute to provide non-police community crisis intervention services. According to the city staff report, “The Crisis Antioch Response Team (CART) Pilot Program will operate for a minimum two-year duration. The program’s estimated cost per the program design forecast by Urban Strategies Council is between $1.8 and $2.2 million per year. Per Antioch City Council action on April 12, 2022, American Recue Plan Act (ARPA) funding has been allocated for this specified purpose in the total amount of $3.6M. The final fee is yet to be negotiated and will be captured in the final agreement for City Council action.”

The program will establish “a 24-hour community crisis intervention response model for Antioch residents” which is intended “to improve the City’s response to behavioral health, quality of life and lower acuity calls.”

The council authorized “the City Manager to enter into negotiations with the Felton Institute regarding the final scope of work and fee associated for the City’s Crisis Antioch Response Team (CART) Pilot Program.” The Professional Services Agreement will be presented to the city council for final review and approval.

During council discussion District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson asked that the program be named the Angelo Quinto Response Team instead.

“I want to say to the Quinto family, you lost your son, that’s how we got here,” District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker said. “Your loss has spurred some change, but it didn’t have to happen.”

“I haven’t found an officer who doesn’t want this,” Thorpe said. “They didn’t sign up to be clinicians, counselors and they didn’t sign up to be teachers, so we’re not putting them in our schools, either.”

Torres-Walker, Ogorchock and Wilson said they would support the renaming.

Barbanica said, “I understand why we’re doing this. What I don’t want is between the officers and individuals they’re working with, friction. But I want to be very straightforward that the Antioch Police Department has been cleared of any wrongdoing. That being said, yes, I will support that.”

Thorpe added his support to renaming the program. Wilson then made a motion to approve selecting the Felton Institute and naming it the Angelo Quinto Crisis Response Team and it passed unanimously.

Later during public comments on another item, Katherine Wade, who claims her son, Malad Baldwin, took his life following an incident with Antioch Police officers in which she says they beat him, said the program name should remain CART and not be named for Quinto. During general, public comments at the end of the meeting Antioch resident Lacey Brown said she agreed with Wade.

Rendering of the northside, Hillcrest Avenue elevation of the new Travis Credit Union building. By BHDP Architecture

Approve New Building for Travis Credit Union

In other action, on a 5-0 vote the council approved the final development plan for a new Travis Credit Union building at 3500 Hillcrest Avenue, just east of the Hillcrest Professional Center. According to the city staff report, “The subject site is a 1.48-acre vacant parcel. The project scope includes the construction of a new 3,525 square foot bank building with a drive-up ATM. Site improvements include the construction of a new parking lot, site lighting, landscaping and stormwater detention basins. The site will have 27 off-street parking spaces. Operating hours are proposed to be 10 am-5:30 pm, Monday – Friday, 10 am – 2 pm on Saturday and closed on Sundays. There will be a total of 11 full-time employees on a typical shift.”

City Manager Appointment

Before voting on Johnson’s contract appointing him as the permanent city manager, Ogorchock asked, “Since we didn’t get to that, do we have to table this?”

“That’s placed there as a courtesy,” Thorpe said. “You can ask your questions in public.”

“No one can say he’s the best candidate…because this council didn’t engage in a fair, open and equitable, professionally managed process,” resident Dr. Jeffrey Klingler said. “Tonight’s process degrades the city manager’s position to little more than a political patronage job. He deserves more than that and more importantly the city deserves more than that.”

“You can table this item and do a proper search for a city manager,” he added.

Five people spoke in favor of Johnson’s appointment including Pittsburg resident Willie Mims and Contra Costa County 2022 Humanitarian of the Year Gigi Crowder, Frank Sterling and Patricia Granados.

“You have not given us a process to get the best candidate. I don’t know you, Mr. Johnson,” said District 1 Council candidate Diane Gibson-Gray. “In less than 13 days and one hour you could have a new council up there. He has a contract through 12-12. I don’t understand the rush.”

A resident named Johnny Walker spoke via Zoom saying, “I really have a problem with this appointment of the city manager. He’s very inexperienced. Since it was the mayor’s idea, the mayor’s appointment, he campaigned for the mayor. The mayor has been making some really bad decisions, and this is one of them. Mr. Johnson spent $30,000 on bouncy houses.”

“It smells like there’s burning here,” City Clerk Ellie Householder then said.

“Oh, maybe someone set my car on fire,” Thorpe responded.

Public comments on the city manager’s appointment then continued.

“It’s a relief to have someone that understands something that happened to me,” Sterling said. “I’m not saying Mr. Johnson has sat down and had a heart to heart…with me. We can find someone probably better. I don’t know if we can or not. Let’s give this man a chance. Congratulations, sir. Welcome to your new appointment. I wish you luck and to the city.”

“I’m excited the direction the City of Antioch is going in,” Granados said. “Wait until after the next election? That’s the problem. No. We don’t have time to wait. Policies need to be put in place. The right money needs to be spent. We don’t need to wait until after the next election.”

During council discussion, Thorpe sought input from the council saying, “In discussion with the city manager, he discussed a two-year term.”

He then recommended a two-year contract at Step C for Johnson’s annual salary of $266,400.

Torres-Walker made the motion, Wilson seconded it.

Ogorchock then made a substitute motion, “That we have an open process and send it out.”

“I don’t think you can make that motion because this is on the contract,” Thorpe said.

“That is correct. You can vote this down and talk about that on another item,” City Attorney Thomas L. Smith said.

The motion then passed 3-2 with Barbanica and Ogorchock voting against.

During the Council Communications portion of the meeting, Torres-Walker took the opportunity to issue one of her periodic, racially filled, vitriolic diatribes – this time prepared in writing – in which she took swipes at her two election opponents, Diane Gibson-Gray and Joy Motts, local media, Barbanica and Ogorchock, but praised Wilson.

Householder then announced that Thorpe had postponed the next regular council meeting scheduled for Election Night, Nov. 8th until Tuesday, Nov. 15th.

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Thorpe to be in Seattle Tuesday for transportation conference, won’t say why he missed part of last council meeting

Monday, October 10th, 2022

Thorpe prepares to leave the Sept. 27, 2022, council meeting two hours and 16 minutes early to catch a flight to Los Angeles turning the remainder meeting over to the leadership of Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica. Video screenshot.

Expected to participate via Zoom; “assistant” reveals Thorpe traveled to Los Angeles for one day

By Allen D. Payton

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe left the Sept. 27, 2022, council meeting early after getting his council colleagues to move up some agenda items and public comments moved toward the end. It was the first council meeting held since the Board of Supervisors voted for the $350,000 settlement in the sexual harassment lawsuit against him on Tuesday, Sept. 13th. While Thorpe refuses to give the reason for the quick trip or where he went, it was later revealed by his “assistant” on his official Facebook page, that he had flown to Los Angeles and returned Wednesday but didn’t say why, either.

Thorpe will be in Seattle for a four-day transportation conference, Tuesday night, Oct. 11th during the council meeting, but is expected to participate via Zoom. Antioch District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson is also expected to be on the same trip and participating in the meeting via Zoom. They both serve on the Tri Delta Transit Board of Directors representing Antioch and for which he currently serves as vice chair.

Antioch Chamber of Commerce Executive Daniel Sohn (left) with Interim City Manager Con Johnson and Thorpe at the Starbucks in the Bluerock Center on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. Source: Facebook

In a post on his official Facebook page on Thursday morning, Thorpe shared a photo of himself with Daniel Sohn, executive director of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce and Interim City Manager Con Johnson inside the Bluerock Starbucks celebrating “National Coffee Day” and inviting one resident to “get down here, gurl! there’s plenty to go around.”

Thorpe was asked about his Tuesday night flight and being out of town for the next council meeting on Oct. 11th. Following a voicemail message to which he did not respond, Thorpe was asked again via email Friday morning, Sept. 30, “To where did you catch a flight Tuesday night and for what reason that caused you to leave the council meeting early? When did you return that allowed you to be back in Antioch at the Bluerock Starbucks yesterday (Thursday) morning to take and post the photo on ‘National Coffee Day’?”

Since Thorpe said he would be gone for the next council meeting, as well, it was assumed he was traveling out of town for two weeks. He was also asked, “since you have your DUI trial scheduled for next Thursday, Oct. 6, did you not actually travel out of town? Where will you be on Tuesday night, Oct. 11 that will cause you to miss that night’s council meeting?”

He was also asked, “is this merely an effort, along with moving up the items before public comment on last Tuesday’s council meeting agenda, to avoid hearing public criticism and negative comments from people regarding the recent settlement of the sexual harassment suit against you?”

Thorpe did not respond.

Thorpe’s Facebook post about the A Street homeless encampment cleanup on Thursday, Sept. 29. Source: Facebook

However, in another post on also his official Facebook page, the same day, about the cleanup of the homeless camps on A Street along the railroad right-of-way, someone asked in a comment, “How can you be out of town but be at Starbucks on lone tree? #transparentantioch”

The response from someone read, “Mayor Thorpe was in Los Angeles Wednesday not Thursday.”

This reporter then asked, “why? Was it an official, government trip or personal?” Neither the person nor Thorpe responded. Those comments have since been illegally removed.

On Monday, Oct. 3 he was, again asked about his trip to L.A., “Why were you there? Was it an official, government trip, personal or for other business? If for a government trip, what did you do on behalf of the City of Antioch in Los Angeles, that day? If not, could it have been scheduled for some other time, so you didn’t have to miss part of Tuesday night’s meeting and rearrange the agenda? How long before Tuesday night did you know about your flight out that night? Was it prior to you developing the agenda for Tuesday night’s meeting? Also, why will you be unable to attend the next council meeting on Oct. 11, either in person or via Zoom?”

Thorpe was also asked, why he has an “assistant” responding to members of the public on his official Facebook page, who she is and if she is being paid by the city in some capacity or from his campaign funds. Finally, he was asked, “Do you really not have the time to interact with your own constituents?”

He did not respond.

Another attempt was made to obtain Thorpe’s reasons for missing part of the last council meeting and the next one. He was asked Tuesday night, Oct. 4th, “Why did you have to fly out of town last Tuesday night causing you to miss part of the council meeting?” and “Why will you be unable to participate in the next council meeting either in person or via Zoom on Tuesday, Oct. 11th? Where will you be and why?”

On Saturday morning, Oct. 8 Thorpe was asked via email, “Is it true you will be participating in next Tuesday’s council meeting via Zoom because you will be in Seattle, Washington for the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) conference as a member of the Tri Delta Transit board? If so, why do you need to go? Do all the board members attend each APTA conference each year? Will any staff or other board members from the agency be traveling there with you, other than Monica Wilson? How much is your trip costing the agency, thus the taxpayers? Also, again, why did you fly to L.A. on Tuesday night Sept. 27 causing you to miss part of the council meeting that night?”

Thorpe did not respond by publication time.

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Contra Costa County provides payment details for out-of-court settlement in Thorpe sexual harassment case

Monday, September 19th, 2022

By Susan Shiu, PIO, Contra Costa County Office of Communications & Media

Former LMCHD executive director and Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe.

(Martinez, CA) – Sept. 19, 2022 – The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, in its capacity as successor agency to the Los Medanos Community Healthcare District (“District”), has approved an out-of-court settlement relating to claims submitted by Jasmine Cisneros and Jocelyn Munoz against the District and its former executive director, Lamar Thorpe. (See related article)

The liability insurance carrier for the former District, RSUI Group Inc, handled this matter and provided counsel to defend the claims.  Following a mediation session among the parties, a settlement was reached.  The settlement was fully executed on August 23, 2022.

The total amount of the settlement of both claims was $350,000, inclusive of attorneys’ fees and costs. Of the settlement amount, $321,000 was paid by the former District’s liability insurance carrier. The remaining settlement amount of $29,000 was paid from the Los Medanos Community Healthcare fund, as an insurance deductible payment.

The Board of Supervisors approved the settlement solely in its capacity as the successor agency to the District. As the successor agency, the County was required to assume all liabilities of the District, including any claims filed against it. The settlement includes a release and waiver of all claims by Cisneros and Munoz against the District, the former executive director, and the County.  The settlement also avoids potentially expensive federal court litigation relating to the claims.

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Antioch City Clerk issues statement supporting two who accused Thorpe of sexual harassment

Saturday, September 17th, 2022

Ellie Householder official city photo. Screenshot of Lamar Thorpe and Householder TikTok video in February 2022.

To the women; I am sorry. I see you, I hear you, and I believe you.” – Ellie Householder in 9/17/22 Facebook post

Also accuses Thorpe of retaliation over a political campaign dispute involving city’s public information officer including unsuccessful efforts to place oversight of her office under interim city manager

No longer “have each other’s back”

Post on Householder’s personal Facebook page Saturday morning, Sept. 17, 2022.

By Allen D. Payton

In a post on her personal Facebook page on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, Antioch City Clerk and Antioch School Board Trustee Ellie Householder issued a statement in support of the two women who accused Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe of sexual harassment writing, “To the women; I am sorry. I see you, I hear you, and I believe you”. The county board of supervisors, acting as the successor agency to the defunct-Los Medanos Community Healthcare District where Thorpe was executive director and the two women worked, voted unanimously on Tuesday to settle the matter for $350,000. (See related article)

In her “Open Letter to the Residents of Antioch” Householder wrote about the mayor, “A person I have loyally stood by for years has used his power and influence over women to take advantage of them, and for this, I am truly sorry.”

“Earlier this year I began breaking ties with Lamar because of his increasingly erratic and hurtful behavior,” the letter continues.

“I found it most appropriate to privately unalign myself with him,” Householder wrote.

She also accused Thorpe of not paying a videographer that was used by the city’s public information officer, Rolando Bonilla, who ran unsuccessfully for the San Jose City Council.

In a comment beneath the Facebook post, Bonilla wrote: “Huh ? In relation to me, honestly, what are you talking about? Wish you would’ve called me, but you didn’t. I still see you as a bright light in the realm of public service, just wish our professional relationship meant the same to you as it did to me. Clearly, that wasn’t the case. I wish you the best, Ellie.”

Following is Householder’s complete letter: Householder Open Letter to the Residents of Antioch 091722

“September 17, 2022

Open Letter to the Residents of Antioch —

It is with a heavy heart I share this letter with you all. On Wednesday, September 14th, I learned of the sexual harrassment [sic] settlement granted to two former co-workers of Lamar Thorpe, Mayor of the City of Antioch.

I recognize that my well-known connection with Lamar Thorpe can be interpreted as a tacit endorsement of his behaviors. I never could’ve imagined someone I highly respect as a collegue [sic] would do such a thing; but it did happen. A person I have loyally stood by for years has used his power and influence over women to take advantage of them, and for this, I am truly sorry.

To the women; I am sorry. I see you, I hear you, and I believe you.

Earlier this year I began breaking ties with Lamar because of his increasingly erratic and hurtful behavior. Our professional relationship reached a breaking point when I learned that Lamar used unauthorized footage from a local videographer without paying. All this while working as the campaign manager for Rolando Bonilla, who also serves as the City’s Public Information Officer. Rather than take accountability and pay the $15k for his mistake, Lamar berated me and gave me several ultimatums urging me to drop this “issue.” Lamar and I haven’t talked since. A few weeks later he began efforts to undermine the City Clerk’s Office. Without my knowledge, Lamar attempted to transfer control of my City Clerk duties to the City Manager, Con Johnson. This was clearly in retaliation to my genuine concerns over his treatment of others.

At great emotional dispense, I tried to help Lamar, but he refused to take accountability for the pain he was causing, and has continued to cause, to people. At that point I found it most appropriate to privately unalign myself with him without sharing the details of our professional relationship (or lack thereof) with anyone else. I think though that now, more than ever, it’s important that the citizens who elected us to our positions are made aware of the current circumstances.

I am here to serve this City and everyone in it, and I take that responsibility seriously. Many people who have been harmed by Lamar have been scared into silence for fear of being lumped into a group of hateful bigots who use race and other tactics to divide our community. I’d like to offer a hand of reassurance to those I know are feeling this way – you can feel safe coming forward with me. I believe you. I will not allow you and your experience to be minimized or written off as an attempt to tarnish his reputation for nefarious reasons when true harm has been done. If there is a way I can be helpful, I am here to do that.

Going forward, I hope that the people like me – closely affiliated with and surrounding our Mayor – will follow my lead in coming forward with their refusal to continue condoning or defending this behavior. I hope we all can reassure those remaining in the shadows that we do not support or stand behind abuse of women no matter what office the perpetrator holds. Please join me in delivering that message to our Antioch community.

Sincerely signed,

Ellie Householder”

—————

Questions for Thorpe Go Unanswered

Questions were sent via email to Thorpe early Thursday afternoon asking, “Were you Rolando Bonilla’s campaign manager for his San Jose City Council race? Is what she wrote about the videographer correct? If so, has that person been paid, yet? Did she confront you about that?

Is what she wrote about you retaliating against her and the City Clerk’s office correct?

If not, why has there been an effort to place the office of a separately elected official under control of the city manager, who answers to the city council?

If you were Rolando’s campaign manager, do think it’s appropriate for you to be doing side work for him as someone for whose contract with the city for PIO services you have repeatedly voted in favor? Doesn’t that pose a rather incestuous relationship, with seriously potential conflicts of interest and smack of cronyism? Do you have any other comment?”

Thorpe did not respond to multiple efforts to reach him for a response to the questions and for any additional comment.

Bonilla Says Thorpe Not His Campaign Manager, Only Volunteered

Questions were also sent via email to Bonilla early Thursday afternoon asking, “Was Lamar your campaign manager for your run for San Jose City Council? If so, do think it’s appropriate for you to have hired someone for whom you work on a contract basis and who votes on your contract with the city for PIO services? Doesn’t that pose a rather incestuous relationship, with seriously potential conflicts of interest and smack of cronyism?

Is what she wrote about the videographer correct? If so, has that person been paid, yet?

Do you have any other comments you’d like to add?”

Bonilla responded in writing, “1. Lamar was not my campaign manager. 2. Videographer was paid in full.”

He was then asked, “but did Lamar work on your campaign at all in either a paid or non-paid capacity?”

Bonilla responded, “He volunteered from time-to-time. Additionally, even Ellie kindly contributed to my campaign. Very appreciative of their support.”

Finally, he was asked, “When was your campaign invoiced by the videographer and when was payment made? Were you aware of any dispute about it among Ellie and Lamar between the​ time the services were provided and payment was made?”

Bonilla responded, “1. Will track down. On road. 2. No, this is all news to me. Contrary to what you may think, I don’t go around involving myself in the political machinations that go on in Antioch.”

Break Occurs After Supporting Each Other for Years

The break between the city clerk and mayor occurs after a long, mutually supportive political alliance. Thorpe helped Householder get elected to both her positions, the school board in 2018 and city clerk in 2020 and she in turn supported him in his campaign for mayor. They’ve also appeared together during parades in the city.

Householder faced recall from her position as city clerk, starting last year, in part due to accusations that she was showing Thorpe favoritism in how she handled the recall effort against him, resulting in delays of the supporters getting started. They campaigned together including posting strange videos on Tik Tok which were shot inside the City Council Chambers in February, and in which they claimed to “have each other’s back”. (See related article)

The recall to remove Householder from school board was later dropped, as the focus turned to recalling Thorpe, which failed due to theft of funds and the signatures according to the organizers. The recall to remove her as city clerk failed to gather enough signatures. (See related articles here and here)

Householder moved into school board Trustee Area 1, which is represented by Antonio Hernandez, and thus is unable to run for re-election as only Areas 2 and 5 are up for election in November. Her term as city clerk runs until December 2024.

Householder Officers More Details

Householder was asked when the issue with the $15,000 videography payment arose, if the videographer is a friend of hers and the dispute about oversight of the city clerk’s office.

The vote to place the city clerk’s office under control of the city attorney’s office instead of the city manager’s office passed last Tuesday night, Sept. 13 on a 4-1 vote with Thorpe voting against.

“Which was my wishes,” Householder stated. “I had a meeting with Lamar and told him he shouldn’t be involved in the process of who would have oversight, after Nickie Mastay (former Administrative Services Director) retired.” Mastay helped with day-to-day staff issues in the city clerk’s office.

“Lamar tried very hard to get it to be Con behind my back,” Householder continued. “Thomas told me about it, which is the only reason I knew. We work closely with Thomas, every day. It made administrative sense” to give his office the oversight role.

“But I was very clear with Lamar and Con that it made me very uncomfortable that Lamar was involved at all,” the city clerk continued. “The only say he had was placing it on the council agenda. That’s what I told him.”

“This started after Nickie left,” Householder stated. That occurred last month when she took a new position with the City of Richmond. “But we knew she was taking another position. She gave plenty of notice. So, conversations were being had without my knowledge.”

“Our office has been in limbo because we haven’t had a director to be the point person for the full-time staff members in the office,” she stated. “I felt like it was being dragged out intentionally.”

Asked about Bonilla denying Thorpe was his campaign manager Householder said, “That’s what I understood him to be as and I did not know he was working on his campaign, he was working on it for awhile before I knew and Lamar called himself his campaign manager.”

Asked how she got involved with the pay for the videographer Householder shared, “he shot my videos. He’s a local guy. Lamar recommended him to me. I’ve worked with him since 2018. He shot videos for the Los Medanos Healthcare District for Lamar.”

Asked when that issue arose she said, “It was about February, it was earlier this year. It was about six months ago. He was hired by Rolando’s campaign for $5,000. He was paid $2,500. Lamar wasn’t happy with the work, took that video and had another person edit it.”

“The videographer told Lamar that it’s customary that if you use footage, it’s three times the amount. So, he was owed $15,000 plus the $2,500 balance,” Householder continued. “He saw his footage in a commercial on TV but it wasn’t his edit.”

Asked if she has spoken to the videographer since then Householder said, “Yes, I did and no he has not been paid. I told Lamar ‘you need to pay this guy’ and we haven’t talked since.”

About Thorpe she said, “I am somebody he’s called his best friend, publicly.”

“I hope this does good. I hope this doesn’t further divide our community. I want it to bring us together,” Householder added.

Please check back later for any additions to this report.

 

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Contra Costa supervisors vote 5-0 to settle sexual harassment claims against Antioch Mayor Thorpe

Friday, September 16th, 2022

Former LMCHD executive director and Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe.

While executive director at now-defunct healthcare district for $350K; he denies accusations

Mayor Pro Tem Barbanica , Councilwoman Ogorchock call for his resignation; Councilwoman Wilson says that’s “racially divisive grandstanding”, Ogorchock responds

By Allen D. Payton

On Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to settle claims against Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe by two former female employees for $350,000 from when he was executive director of the now-defunct Los Medanos Community Healthcare District. Then in a press conference held Thursday afternoon, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica and District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock called for Thorpe to resign as mayor.

The healthcare district was disbanded, earlier this year, the county acts as the successor agency and now, receives the annual revenue estimated at $1.1 million. (See related article)

The women, whose names were provided in the documents as Bay Point resident Jasmine Cisneros and Antioch resident Jocelyn Munoz, filed their claims on February 22, 2022. The two made multiple accusations against Thorpe both on formal government forms and in a resignation letter from Munoz to healthcare district board president, Patt Young, including inappropriate touching and an incident of groping Cisneros while at a California Special Districts Association conference in Monterey.

Formal Claims

Cisneros claimed she worked for the healthcare district “as a Community Outreach Specialist from approximately early 2020 to November 4, 2021, when she was forced to resign her employment. Ms. Cisneros resigned due to sexual harassment, unwanted sexual advances, hostile working conditions, and other unlawful actions resulting from Executive Director Lamar Thorpe’s misconduct, and the District’s inaction, despite having knowledge of that misconduct. Ms. Cisneros has been injured as a result of Thorpe’s misconduct and the District’s inaction. Thorpe’s unwanted sexual advances, harassment, and other unlawful behavior continued until Ms. Cisneros resigned. Ms. Cisneros was forced to resign her employment as a result of Thorpe’s misconduct and the District’s inaction and has been harmed economically in the form of lost wages and emotional distress damages.” Cisneros.LMCHD Claim redacted

Munoz claims she worked for the district “for approximately eight months, from early 2021 to September 2, 2021, when she was forced to resign her position. Ms. Munoz’s [sic] resigned due to sexual harassment, unwanted sexual advances, hostile working conditions, and other unlawful actions resulting from Executive Director Lamar Thorpe’s misconduct, and the District’s inaction, despite having knowledge of that misconduct. See Exhibit A (Resignation letter). Thorpe’s unwanted sexual advances, harassment, and other unlawful behavior continued until Ms. Munoz resigned on September 2, 2021. Ms. Munoz has been injured as a result of Thorpe’s misconduct and the District’s inaction. Moreover, Ms. Munoz was forced to resign her employment as a result of Thorpe’s misconduct and the District’s inaction and has been harmed economically in the form of lost wages and emotional distress damages.” Munoz.LMCHD Claim & Letter redacted

Both claims show the amount of compensation sought “Exceeds $10,000”.

Munoz’s Resignation Letter Provides Details

In her resignation letter dated Sept. 3, 2021, Munoz provided details of two incidents involving Thorpe, including one at an Antioch restaurant and another during the conference in Monterey at which both ladies, one of their partners and Thorpe stayed the night in a hotel. The letter also mentions “many levels of harassment and very high levels of hostile working conditions from board members and management. LMCHD has a culture of disrespect, bullying and harassment,” including “board members berating staff during public meetings”.

“In the season of the AB 903 celebration in early July 2021, my partner and I met with the executive director for LMCHD, Lamar Thorpe at La Plazuela in Antioch, CA to socialize and celebrate the win,” she wrote. “While we were seated, Lamar came between my partner and I, looked down at my leg and grabbed my leg; specifically my calf. While still holding my calf, he acknowledged the act and said, ‘this is sexual harassment, should I stop’ and let go. In that same instance, my partner and I agreed to his statement and said, ‘yeah what are you doing?!’ Being fearful of my job, status and Lamars [sic] social status as Mayor of Antioch and executive director I felt his simple acknowledgement was sufficient and I physically moved on, but mentally I still felt trapped.”

“Following the traumatizing experience, I witnessed another horrifying act on August 30, 2021 at the CSDA conference where I saw Lamar inappropriately grope my colleague when we (my partner, my colleague and executive director) were out socializing and walking back to our hotel,” her letter continued. “Immediately following the grope, my colleague got my undivided attention, looked me in the eyes and said, ‘PLEASE walk me back to my room’. My partner and I escorted my colleague to her room, and Lamar opened his hotel room door to check on us and gave us a sinister look. At that moment, my partner and I left to our hotel room.”

“The next day on August 31, 2021 my colleague, my partner and I went to lunch and were discussing what other seminars to attend, that’s where Lamar joked about attending the ‘sexual harassment training and prevention’ and also joked about the inappropriate grope that happened the night before,” Munoz wrote. “Later that evening of August 31, 2021 my colleague, my partner and I were having dinner and Lamar texted us ‘are y’all coming to this reception?’ referring to the conference networking mix and mingle. We did not respond and saw Lamar walk by our table and he ignored us. A few minutes later Lamar approached our table and said ‘hey haters!’ and made two inappropriate hand gestures, showing his middle fingers and walked away.”

On the “evening of September 1, 2021 Lamar texted my colleague and I ‘yo, ya’ll wanna go to Rolando’s house’. I politely declined, and then I heard a knock at my hotel room door. I did not answer fearing that it was Lamar. A few seconds later Lamar called and asked if I was in my room, confirming that the knock was him. He requested to meet with me to have a discussion,” the letter continued. “During the discussion he acknowledged the level of discomfort that he was feeling about the conversation and also stated that he didn’t want to have it. He opened with ‘are we cool?’ At that moment I felt cornered, trapped, triggered and manipulated into having to relive the events that happened on Monday night. The conversation went on for 15 minutes to which he was trying to get a temperature check on the situation at hand. At the end of the conversation, he asked what he could do to make things better. We met up with my partner inside the restaurant where he then approached my partner apologized to him, shook his hand and excused himself.”

“The final day, September 2, 2021 as we were all exiting the conferenced, I approached Lamar…he then proceeded to walk with me and said, ‘you still don’t seem ok’ referring to the events from Monday and the conversation we had the night before…I quickly made an excuse to try to avoid anymore discussion regarding Monday night, but that didn’t help and I ended the conversation by stating I wouldn’t be comfortable with anymore continued unwanted advances,” Munoz added.

“I hope this reveals the level of unprofessionalism at LMCHD, and I hope that this matter gets resolved in the best and most appropriate way. These past events have severely hindered my efficiency at work, my mental health and I don’t know how I can support LMCHD as an employee,” the letter concluded.

No Admissions in Settlement Agreement

The settlement agreement signed in August by the two women and a representative of the county’s Risk Management, includes a “No Admissions” clause. That reads, “It is understood and agreed by the PARTIES that the promises and payments and consideration of this Agreement shall not be construed to be an admission of any liability or obligation by any Party to another Party, the District, the County, Thorpe, or any other person, and the Releasees expressly deny that they have breached any duty, obligation or agreement, or engaged in any tortious or wrongful activity, or that they are liable to the Claimants or any other person or party in any way, or that any injuries, damages or harms of any kind have been sustained by the Claimants.” Los Medanos – Cisneros-Munoz – Fully executed Settlement Agreement (08-23-2022)

Supervisors Explain Their Votes

Each of the county supervisors were asked why they voted to settle the claims. Board Chair Karen Mitchoff responded via email writing, “An independent investigation was performed and concluded it was likely the plaintiffs would prevail in litigation.  As with all such claims, the Board was presented with this information, discussed the matter and concluded it was best to settle the matter, thus saving litigation costs and a potentially higher jury award.”

Both Districts 2 and 3 Supervisors Candace Andersen and Diane Burgis issued the same response, writing, “the insurance carrier for the former Los Medanos Community Healthcare District, RSUI Group Inc, handled this case and provided counsel to defend the claims against the former District.  Following a mediation session among the parties, a settlement was reached. The Board of Supervisors approved the settlement solely in its capacity as the successor agency to the District. As the successor agency, the County was required to assume all liabilities of the former District, including the claims filed against the District.”

“I really don’t have any additional comments about the specifics of the case,” Andersen added.

Neither Supervisors John Gioia (District 1) nor Federal Glover (District 5) who represents portions of Antioch, responded prior to publication time.

Past Accusation Against Thorpe for Sexual Misconduct

It’s not the first time a woman has accused Thorpe of inappropriate sexual activity. As previously reported, while in college, Thorpe was found guilty of disorderly conduct for “lewd and indecent behavior” against a female student by Student Judicial Services at George Washington University, but he was acquitted of sexual harassment. Thorpe later lost an appeal to overturn the disorderly conduct charge. He has denied the incident ever occurred. In 2016, this reporter chose to believe him, and the Herald endorsed him for city council. (See related articles here and here)

Barbanica, Ogorchock Call for Thorpe’s Resignation

Barbanica and Ogorchock hold press conference Thursday afternoon, Sept. 15, 2022. Facebook Live video screenshot.

During a press conference held Thursday afternoon, at Barbanica’s business office, he and Ogorchock called for Thorpe’s resignation. The mayor pro tem said he had sent a letter to Thorpe earlier in the day asking him to resign but had not yet heard back.

“This is a distraction for our city. We have a city of 114,000 people and the council has very serious business to do, yet we are sidetracked in these meetings by these types of issues,” Barbanica stated. “I do not believe that the behavior that is suspected, not convicted, but suspected, here is not indicative of a leader within our community; our council and our mayor should be held to a higher standard.”

He should “step aside, resign and allow the council to move forward. That’s what we’re asking him to do,” he added.

Asked if they had read the documents, Ogorchock responded, “I did. I read them all, from their statements, the filings, their release.”

“As did I,” Barbanica added.

Asked for their analysis of what they read he said, “Very concerning.”

Ogorchock responded, “As a woman I felt, that’s why I’m asking for his resignation. This is inexcusable. We can’t behave in this manner and be in a leadership position. You just can’t do that.”

“I’m very disappointed in what I read…in the court documents,” Barbanica later said. “This is not what the citizens want in a leader.”

Questions for Thorpe Go Unanswered, Denies Allegations

Thorpe was asked Friday morning to respond to both the settlement and the calls for his resignation. He was also asked if anything included in the complaints from your two former female employees, true, if they both worked directly for him and how many employees worked at the district when he was executive director.

Thorpe was also asked if he had found a new job and what he is doing for work. He was also asked about a severance that he and the other district employees were each provided, and how long did or will it last.

Finally, Thorpe was asked if he hired the two women, approved their hiring or compensation, or involved in any way in their hiring process and if so, how.

He did not respond as of publication time Friday afternoon. However, according to an East Bay Times report, on Thursday, Thorpe issued a statement denying the allegations.

“I am wholeheartedly heart-broken by these allegations, as they are completely false. When I served as the executive director of the Los Medanos Community Healthcare District (LMCHD), I worked to create an environment that gave opportunities to members of our community that were historically marginalized, as I have always sought to make change through empowerment.

“As the members of my team at the LMCHD can attest, the environment that I created was one of positivity and respect. Although saddened by the allegations, I will not be making any comment about the individuals involved, as I want to continue believing in the good in people, and not allow for this moment to shut down my spirit of community.”

Former Board Chair Patt Young Found Allegations Against Thorpe “Unfounded”

When reached for comment about the allegations against Thorpe, former LMCHD Board Chair Patt Young, now a member of the Contra Costa Water District board, said, “I actually, reviewed the allegations, and it just wasn’t credible. He had and has my full support. I found the allegations to be unfounded.”

Asked what she did when she received Munoz’s letter in September, Young responded, “I forwarded, I always forward to our legal counsel. It had to go there, first.”

When asked if she was at the CSDA conference where one of the incidents is alleged to have occurred, Young said, “I was, but I wasn’t with them that evening.”

Asked if she or anyone from the board reached out to the two women, Young stated, “we couldn’t. It would be a violation of the law.”

Efforts to reach both Cisneros and Munoz for responses to the denials by Thorpe and Young were unsuccessful prior to publication time.

Wilson Labels Calls for Resignation “Racially Divisive Grandstanding”

In that same Times article, District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson claimed calls for Thorpe’s resignation by Barbanica and Ogorchock to be “racially divisive grandstanding”. Ogorchock is one of Wilson’s three challengers in this year’s council election, after Wilson, Thorpe and District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker drew and then approved a gerrymandered redistricting map, moving Ogorchock into District 4. (See related article)

Ogorchock Responds to Wilson’s Comments

In a post on her official Facebook page Friday morning, Ogorchock wrote, “After reading remarks made by Councilwoman Wilson in response to the press conference held yesterday with Mayor Pro Tem Barbanica and myself requesting Mayor Thorpe to resign appear to be a deflection of the real issues.

Councilwoman Wilson is ignoring that two women presented valid claims of sexual harassment, unwanted sexual advances, hostile working conditions and other unlawful actions. The real issue is the detailed actions of Mayor Thorpe as outlined by the two women under his direction as the executive director.

In speaking with County Supervisor Mitchoff this morning she said, and I quote “after the completion of the investigation and based on credible facts we settled the case”. The county, who took control of the defunct healthcare district, settled the case for $350k.

I stand by my statements made yesterday, and believe that Mayor Thorpe should resign.”

Former Councilwoman Supports Thorpe’s Resignation

“He ought to step down. Enough is enough. First drunk driving, arrested for that. Now, this. Come on. We deserve better in the city of Antioch. Get out,” stated former Antioch Councilwoman Norma Hernandez. “I’m very suspicious of all these allegations that have happened, way in the past and now, if they are true, and this is the mayor representing all of us in the city of Antioch.”

Please check back later for any updates to this report.

 

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City of Antioch seeks high school juniors and seniors for Springboard Project paid internship program

Monday, May 23rd, 2022

Learn more about the program in this video.

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Register for Antioch Mayor Thorpe’s annual State of the City address Wednesday morning

Tuesday, May 10th, 2022

Register here: 2022 State of the City Address Tickets, Wed, May 11, 2022 at 11:00 AM | Eventbrite

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Antioch interim city manager welcomes new interim police chief to lead depleted force

Tuesday, April 26th, 2022

New Antioch Interim Chief of Police Dr. Steve Ford introduced by Mayor Lamar Thorpe Wednesday morning, Feb. 23, 2022. Herald file photo.

SFPD Commander Steve Ford. Source: SFPD

By Allen D. Payton

In his City Manager’s Bi-Monthly Update on Tuesday, April 26, Antioch Interim City Manager welcomed new Interim Police Chief Dr. Steve Ford whose hiring was announced by Mayor Lamar Thorpe during a press conference on February 23 without the knowledge of at least three other council members. (See related article)

Ford reportedly began his new position yesterday, Monday, April 25 and former Interim Police Chief Tony Morefield, who has held the position since former Chief Tammany Brooks’ retirement last fall, returned to his position as a Captain on the police force. Neither Thorpe nor Johnson ever answered the question why the change in interim police chiefs was necessary.

Ford had to complete his background check before his hiring could be finalized, which was expected to be done by Easter. Johnson inadvertently fired Morefield in an email to him and others, including all five council members and Ford, the day after Thorpe’s announcement. That was rescinded a short while later. (See related article)

Johnson’s message reads as follows:

“WELCOME CHIEF DR. STEVE A. FORD

‘Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.’ Publilius Syrus

As a former police officer, who honorably served 30 years in law enforcement and is currently serving the City of Antioch as its Interim City Manager, there is no greater honor and privilege than having both the benefit and opportunity of appointing a new Chief of Police. The Chief of Police is an iconic city figure who must be beyond reproach and possess impeccable personal character. With great humility, I would like to introduce Dr. Steve A. Ford as the City of Antioch’s newly appointed Interim Chief of Police. A very special thank you to Captain Tony Morefield who stepped in as Interim Chief of Police since October 2021.

Dr. Steven A. Ford, Ed.D, M.S., B.S., who recently retired from the San Francisco Police Department as a Commander, grew up in one of San Francisco’s crime-ridden and gang-infested communities, notoriously known at the time as the Ingleside-Oceanview district. His law enforcement background spans thirty-one-plus years with the San Francisco Police Department and has included assignments in Operations, Investigations, Administration, Special Operations-Homeland Security, and Professional Standards-Strategic Management Bureaus. Dr. Ford currently serves as faculty at San Francisco City College and San Francisco State University, where he instructs administration of justice courses and course work in the MPA program.

Dr. Ford holds an Associate of Sciences Degree from San Francisco City College, a Bachelor of Science Degree from San Francisco State University, a Master of Science Degree from California State University-Long Beach, and a Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership from Saint Mary’s College-California. Chief Ford has attended the Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute, Robert Presley Institute of Criminal Investigations, California POST Command College, California Police Chiefs Executive Leadership Institute at Drucker-Claremont Graduate University, POST Executive Development, San Francisco Leadership S.F. Chamber of Commerce, and San Francisco Police Department Leadership Development Institute.

Dr. Ford considers his leadership and professional philosophy to be that of a contemporary leader who values the profession’s history, is focused on current challenges, and has a vision for the future of policing. Please join Mayor Lamar Thorpe, the entire City Council, and me in welcoming our new Antioch Police Department Interim Chief of Police, Dr. Steven A. Ford, to our beautiful city, where Opportunity Lives.”

Challenges Ford Will Face

Ford steps in at a time the Antioch Police force is down 14 sworn officers to 101 from the 115 budgeted, and down 24 active sworn officers with five of them on paid leave pending the investigation by the Contra Costa DA’s Office and FBI. In addition, he will face an attrition problem that, according to Antioch Police Officers Association President Steve Aiello based on exit interviews of officers leaving the department, is due to the current council majority, specifically the mayor and District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker, and their attitudes toward and actions affecting the police department.

Ford and Thorpe recently proposed adding four more sworn officers to the current over hire figure of six, and a signing bonus for lateral and new academy graduates, including a housing allocation. Both items are on tonight’s (Tuesday’s) council meeting agenda for discussion. (See related article)

In addition, Ford begins his tenure in his new position at a time neither he nor any of the City’s other department heads are allowed to speak to council members or the media, by Johnson’s directive, without the interim city manager’s approval, presence or the presence of Johnson’s representative.

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