Archive for the ‘Legal’ Category

Antioch Police Officers’ Association suing City to obtain Mayor Thorpe’s phone records

Tuesday, September 26th, 2023

APOA attorney says City claims there aren’t any; council will address lawsuit during tonight’s closed session Tuesday

Thorpe claims he doesn’t use personal cell phone for city business; issues statement calling lawsuit “intimidation tactics”

Attorney says during five months of the text scandal investigation only 5 or 6 cops on leave of the 15 or 16 his office represents have been interviewed

“So, they’re just sitting there earning money because of the disfunction of the City leaders” – Mike Rains, APOA attorney

By Allen D. Payton

During their meeting tonight, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, the Antioch City Council will address in closed session a lawsuit by the Antioch Police Officers’ Association (APOA). Asked about reasons for the lawsuit the APOA’s attorney, Mike Rains, said it’s to obtain Mayor Lamar Thorpe’s phone records because the City won’t provide them, claiming they couldn’t find any. The Public Records Act request covers the nine days prior to Thorpe’s Wednesday, March 30th press conference when he spoke about the investigation into the racist text scandal among Antioch officers. (See related article)

In that press conference, Thorpe read from prepared text saying, “Monday I received some information that has arisen from an ongoing investigation of the Antioch Police Department. Several additional officers have been placed on administrative leave. Let me be very clear I’m not here to confirm the number of officers that are involved nor am I here to confirm any rumors or speculations about the nature of what was discovered.”

Since that time, about 35 officers have been on leave, all paid until last month when three of the officers who have been charged with crimes by the Contra Costa DA’s Office, were placed on unpaid leave.

The lawsuit (Case number N23-1629 in Contra Costa Superior Court) is seeking “records reflecting telephone calls, emails, and text messages sent or received by City of Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe concerning the initiation of a non-criminal administrative investigation into allegations of misconduct by City of Antioch police officers concerning text or email messages allegedly containing graphic references to issues regarding race, ethnicity or national original, or sexual preference and/or sexual identification, which have become the subject of media scrutiny.”

“This started months ago,” Rains explained. “We sent a Public Records Act request to the City to get the records from the mayor’s phone, texts, emails and phone calls to others, from about March 21-30, the nine days before his March 30th news conference announcing that this investigation of the text messaging was going on. He couldn’t provide details. The chief had not given him any information at all. He claimed the city manager had briefed him. But the city manager didn’t know anything. So, where was he getting his information?”

“Larry Wallace from the DA’s office had put together his two reports on the texting and I believe Thorpe was getting his information from Wallace directly,” Rains stated. “I don’t know. But we have a right to know where he’s getting his information about public business. It’s a public record.”

“We asked for that information but the former assistant city attorney who quit during a meeting and just walked out, wrote us a letter asking for a extension, saying ‘we need to look at it,’” Rains shared. “Then we give her the extension then she sent us a letter claiming they didn’t have anything.”

“So, we asked how she had searched the mayor’s phone. We got crickets,” he continued. “Then we sent another letter asking for the same thing and threatened but they didn’t respond. So, we did. That’s what tomorrow is about.”

“They have to do a search according to state Supreme Court based on a case out of the City of San Jose, that had to do with records requests for council members private phones,” Rains said. “I have a feeling they never did the search. I’m sure the mayor has since tried to delete everything. That would probably cause us to get the phone and do a forensic analysis to get all the deleted messages.”

Text Scandal Investigation

Regarding the investigation of the officers on leave for the racist text scandal, Rains said, “The city’s lawyers who they’ve retained and another group that they’ve retained to do something else, they’re going through all kinds of law firms, including the few interviews of the cops on leave for the texts. They’ve only done about five or six interviews. They still have about seven or eight guys they need to interview, guys who shouldn’t be on leave at the request of the mayor and the city attorney, not with the support of Chief Ford.”

“We had all these interviews set up for 15 of the cops but at first, they said they were only going to do one interview,” he continued. “I think we’ve had three different investigators, now, that have done the five or six interviews. The first one from Los Angeles didn’t even show up. Then they hired the Hispanic lady. She was nice and did one or two interviews. Then they hired some guy who did a couple interviews.”

As previously reported, City Attorney Thomas L. Smith hired Cerritos, CA-based Angela Powell, a partner in the law firm of Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, to conduct the investigation of the text messages. She has 26 years’ experience as an attorney. Her services ended by Monday, May 15, the day the interviews of the officers were to begin. In her place, the City hired San Jose-based attorney Allison Hernandez, a Senior Associate with the law firm of Burke, Williams & Sorensen who earned her law degree in 2016.

Asked about Powell, Rains said, “She said she was going to be fair. She wasn’t going to let anyone tell her what to do. The next thing I know is we had another lady showing up to do the interviews. I think she didn’t find anything they could do.”

Asked about the other officers on leave Rains said, “I don’t know what they did with Rombough. We don’t represent him. I don’t know how many they think they still need to interview. We don’t represent all these guys. We represent somewhere around 15 or 16 cops on leave, who were mostly recipients of group texts. Of those they’ve only interviewed half in about five months.”

“So, they’re just sitting there earning money because of the disfunction of the City leaders,” he added.

Asked if there is any communication between his office and the investigators Rains stated, “No. The city attorney and the mayor have cut the investigators out of any communication with the department. Even Chief Ford couldn’t speak with them. Usually in the scheme of things, when outside investigators are hired, the chief coordinates it, working with staff setting up interviews. Ford wasn’t even in the picture.”

“All the attorneys have been brought in by the city attorney,” Rains continued. “So, the chief isn’t involved in any of it, and I think that includes the current, acting chief. He’s just sitting on the sidelines, too.”

Asked if he knows when the interviews and the investigation will conclude, Rains replied, “No idea.”

Questions for Thorpe, City Attorney

Questions were sent to both Thorpe and City Attorney Smith Monday night giving them until noon Tuesday to respond.

They were asked if Rains’ claims are true that the City won’t provide the records from the mayor’s personal phone from March 21-30 because they claim there aren’t any.

Thorpe was asked, if that is true, if he had deleted any phone calls, text or email messages on his phone from that period.

They were also asked if it’s not true, and there are records of phone calls, text and email messages from the mayor’s phone, why haven’t they been provided if they are a public record.

Thorpe was then asked if he has a city-issued phone that he uses for city business and if not, how does he communicate with members of the public and others regarding city-related business.

Finally, the mayor was asked if he received his information about the text scandal from anyone in the Contra Costa DA’s Office, including Larry Wallace.

Smith was then asked if only five or six of the 15 or 16 officers represented by Rains’ law firm have been interviewed by the outside investigators. He was also asked, “If so, why haven’t they all been interviewed yet in the five months since they’ve been placed on leave and when will they be interviewed?” If that’s not correct, how many of the 35 or so officers on leave have been interviewed during the investigation? Have the outside investigators been given a deadline for completing the interview and investigation and providing you and the city council with a final report?”

Thorpe Says He Doesn’t Use Personal Cell Phone, Uses Home Landline for City Business

Thorpe said he doesn’t use his personal cell phone for city business, but uses his home landline, instead.

“I use this phone, right here,” he stated during a phone call Tuesday morning. “I have another cell phone but I don’t give out that number as too many people have my other number and I get texts and phone calls on that.”

Source: Mayor Lamar Thorpe’s X (formerly Twitter) feed.

Labels APOA’s Lawsuit “Intimidation Tactics”

Later, on Tuesday afternoon, Thorpe posted on his official social media accounts the following:

Statement Regarding Antioch Police Union’s Intimidation Tactics

“I’m deeply troubled and disappointed that the Antioch Police Officers Association -a.k.a. the Police Union- still doesn’t get it.

Current and former members of the Antioch Police Department are being indicted by the US Department of Justice. Several more are being charged with state crimes by the Contra Costa District Attorney.

Two state agencies are investigating the department including California’s attorney general. The city is currently investigating members for racist text messages discovered by the FBI.

And, lastly, the city council approved my request for audits of the internal affairs process, hiring and promotions practices, and to examine patterns and practices.

Right now, the police union should be working with my colleagues and me to build a department that is reflective of our city’s values. Instead, the police union is busy trying to intimidate me and City Hall with the same old, tired tactics of yesteryear by aiming to turn me into the 800-pound gorilla in the room.”

Because it didn’t answer the questions posed to him or explain how there are no record of texts, emails or phone calls as requested by the APOA’s attorney, Thorpe was again asked if he uses a city-issued cell phone. He was also asked when he stopped using his personal cell phone for city-related business. He did not respond prior to Tuesday’s closed session meeting which began at 6:00 p.m. or by publication time.

Smith also did not respond prior to publication time.

UPDATE #1: Rains Responds to Thorpe’s Statement

In response to Thorpe’s statement Rains wrote, “It’s nonsense.  We have been trying to get a straight answer from the City for five months concerning calls/texts/emails sent and/or received by Thorpe with other City or DA employees in the week or so preceding his March 30 press conference announcing the texting investigation, even though no text messages had been released to the City or the media before March 30.  The City refused our request to describe any search conducted of his cell phone for the information, and we told them if they continued to refuse our request for transparency, we would seek relief in Superior Court.  They did nothing and we were forced to file the writ.”

UPDATE #2: Following Tuesday night’s closed session, Attorney Smith reported out about the lawsuit stating, “no reportable action.”

UPDATE #3 (9/27/23): When reached later for comment asking again when he stopped using his personal cell phone for city business Thorpe said, “I’m not going to answer any questions related to the investigation.” But the mayor did say he doesn’t have a city-issued cell phone.

Antioch mayor sends scathing letter to police union’s attorney for claiming he took away chief’s authority

Friday, July 21st, 2023
Screenshot of KTVU Fox2 interview with the APOA’s attorney Mike Rains on Thursday, July 20, 2023 and Mayor Lamar Thorpe who responded Friday morning.

Rains says chief had “decision-making…taken away from him”; Thorpe calls it “completely laughable“, an “attempt to spin; claims police officers have committed “moral crimes” before investigation is completed

By Allen D. Payton

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe sent a scathing letter on Friday, July 21, 2023, to attorney Mike Rains, the who represents the Antioch Police Officers Association, attacking him for comments he made blaming the mayor for Police Chief Steve Ford’s sudden retirement. Ford announced his departure on Wednesday, effective August 11th. Rains made his comments in an interview with KTVU Fox2 interview  on Thursday. Thorpe posted a copy of his letter on his official Twitter feed and on his official Facebook page Friday morning.

During the news report Rains, of the law firm Rains Lucia Sterns St. Phalle and Silver, PC, told the reporter, “This department is in turmoil and he’s the one who could have brought it out of turmoil. It’s going to be hard to find somebody to do that, now.”

“These important decision-making things that any police chief should be making, having been taken away from him,” Rains stated. “I think he just got finally tired of not being able to make the decisions to guide both the investigation and the department the way he wanted to do.”

In that same report, Thorpe was also interviewed and said, “One individual or one role does not define the entire city. We have to deliver on the promises that we told people we would deliver on and part of that is building trust with the community and having a police department that serves all the people of our city.”

Thorpe’s Facebook post of letter to Rains on July 21, 2023.

In his Facebook post, Thorpe wrote, “This morning I had an encouraging conversation with Chief Steve Ford concerning his recent retirement announcement. While Chief Ford and I are in regular communication, I was traveling back from a transportation conference in Birmingham, Ala on Wednesday.

I thanked Chief Ford for his service and he reassured me that the reforms we’ve started have built a strong foundation for new leadership.

There will be local blogs and a paid lawyer for the officers involved in the racist text messaging scandal who try to politicize his retirement announcement.

Attached is my open-letter to said paid lawyer.”

Thorpe letter to Rains dated July 21, 2023. Source: Lamar Thorpe

Thorpe’s tweet of the letter reads, “Late [sic] from Mayor Thorpe to attorney for officers involved in racist text messaging scandal.”

Thorpe’s tweet on Twitter of his letter to Rains on July 21, 2023.

In his letter to Rains, Thorpe wrote, “Your attempt in the press to make Chief Steve Ford’s retirement about me is completely laughable, as it is clear you are seeking to make the Antioch Police Department’s current state of affairs about politics. It isn’t. It is about right and wrong.

As a paid representative to the racist [sic] that violated the public’s trust, I understand that your role is to protect them from the moral crimes that they committed against our residents. However, the moral crimes that your clients have committed are so egregious, and so outside of normalcy that it required a leader with internal fortitude to bring order to the Antioch Police Department.

To the city council, Chief Ford was that person. He came in with the belief that he would change the ‘hearts and minds’ of the members of the Antioch Police Department. However, racism is so entrenched within the halls of the Antioch Police Department that the Chief himself was freely labeled a ‘gorilla’ in text messages among officers (referring to the latest 128-pages of texts filed in court last week). Do you think this behavior is worth defending? A culture that is so toxic that they denigrate their leader in the most vile way by which a black man can be referenced.

For all of your attempt to spin in the press, keep in mind: I wasn’t the person that found the texts, nor was I the one that released the texts and the names of your clients. That honor goes to the FBI, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office, and the Contra Costa County Superior Court. Are these agencies anti-police? Anti-law enforcement? Of course not, because they were doing the right thing and upholding their duty to the public.

In fact, the only people that seem to benefit from Antioch’s current moral crisis are people such as yourself who are paid handsomely to defend the indefensible. You hide behind policies and procedures without ever caring about how your actions hurt the residents of the city of Antioch, or the honest officers that have never violated the law whose names are being dragged in the mud because your clients lack the honor to take accountability. I’d say their lack of honor, and your protection of them is the most anti-police behavior I have ever witnessed.

That is one of the key differences between you and me. I do not get paid to serve as mayor. I serve because I love my community, and I will always fight to ensure that the residents of MY city are able to live in a city where they can prosper, and not feel marginalized by the very institutions their tax dollars uphold.

I am not writing this letter for a response from you as your words mean ABSOLUTELY nothing to me. I am writing it so that my community can hear the facts directly from me.


Lamar A. Thorpe

Mayor, City of Antioch


Rains’ Firm Represents Officers in Text Scandal Investigation, Not in Lawsuit

When reached for comment about Thorpe’s letter Rains said he is not representing the officers involved in the text scandal lawsuit.

In fact, the City through City Attorney Thomas L. Smith’s department, has hired and is paying for the attorneys representing and defending the current and two former police chiefs, and one former and five current officers named in the federal lawsuit.

But the attorneys in Rains’ office are with the officers during the interviews by the City-hired outside investigator for the text scandal investigation which is about possible violations of department policies and procedures.

Rains added, “Had the mayor left the chief alone he would have been able to do his job. I’m sorry to see him go. All of his discretionary powers were taken away.”

Thorpe Paid Stipend as Mayor

The mayor was incorrect in one of his comments toward the end as he and each councilmember receive a $1,600 per month stipend as well as benefits. Thorpe was challenged on that comment and asked if he would like to correct the record. He responded, “There’s no record to correct, I don’t get paid a salary, I get a stipend that is less than the annual salary of a minimum wage worker in California. Rains earns a salary, I do not.”

Thorpe was also asked to respond directly to Rains’ accusation that the mayor prevented Ford from doing his job. He was asked if anything Rains said is correct, and if at any time during Chief Ford’s tenure he attempted to exert any pressure on him or through the city manager regarding carrying out his duties for the department.

Thorpe responded, “My direct response to Rains is my letter, it speaks for itself.”

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Permanent injunction imposed against online education company for alleged violations of children’s privacy law

Wednesday, June 28th, 2023
Source: LinkedIn

Edmodo, LLC allegedly collected names, email addresses, phone numbers, device information, and IP addresses of approximately 36 million children under 13 for advertising purposes until approximately September 2022 and “retaining this personal information indefinitely”

Antioch Unified didn’t use it.

The Department of Justice, together with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), today announced that Edmodo, LLC (Edmodo) has agreed to a permanent injunction and a $6 million civil penalty in connection with its online educational platform, as part of a settlement to resolve alleged violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA Rule), and the Federal Trade Commission Act. The civil penalty is suspended due to Edmodo’s inability to pay.

The Edmodo educational platform, sold to schools throughout the United States, enabled teachers to interface with students, including children under 13 years old, to host virtual class spaces, conduct discussions, share materials, make assignments, and provide quizzes and grades, among other things. In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the government alleges that, until approximately September 2022, Edmodo collected the personal information of children under 13, including their names, email addresses, phone numbers, device information, and IP addresses. Edmodo allegedly collected such information without providing notice to the children’s parents or obtaining parental authorization to collect such personal information, as required by the COPPA Rule, and used this personal information to enable third parties to display targeted advertising to student users between 2018 and September 2022.

According to a May 2023 article by Human Rights Watch, “Edmodo was a website and app widely used by children in kindergarten, elementary, and middle schools across the US until September 2022, when the company pivoted to only selling its product to governments. The company benefited from explosive demand in 2020, reporting a 1,500 percent increase in users in the first five months of the pandemic as governments and schools rushed to connect children to online learning.

An investigation by Human Rights Watch in May 2022 found that Edmodo was designed with the capacity to surveil children and harvest their personal data for advertising. Our technical analysis found that Edmodo could not only invisibly tag children and identify their devices for the sole purpose of advertising to them, but also enabled other advertisers to do the same by embedding ad-specific third-party code on its platform. After multiple requests for comment, Edmodo told Human Rights Watch in July 2022 that it did ‘not share [its students’] personal data with any Edmodo business partners or third parties.’”

The complaint further asserts that Edmodo was retaining this personal information indefinitely. As of March 2020, Edmodo retained the personal information associated with approximately 36 million student accounts, of which only one million were actively using the platform. This indefinite retention violated COPPA’s requirement that an operator not retain personal information of children for longer than “reasonably necessary to fulfill the purpose for which [the information] was collected.”

The stipulated order, entered by the federal district court yesterday, enjoins Edmodo from collecting personal information from children in a manner that violates the COPPA Rule and prohibits Edmodo from retaining children’s personal information for longer than reasonably necessary to fulfill the purpose for which it was collected. The order also enjoins Edmodo from collecting more personal information than reasonably necessary for a child to participate in any activity offered on its service. It also requires Edmodo to destroy personal information improperly collected from children under age 13 and to comply with reporting, monitoring, and recordkeeping requirements. Edmodo is also subject to a civil penalty judgment of $6 million dollars, which is suspended due to Edmodo’s inability to pay.

“Children do not lose their privacy protections when they use the internet,” said U.S. Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey for the Northern District of California. “Congress and the FTC have established rules to govern websites and apps collecting and storing the personal information of children. The settlement being announced today demonstrates the Department of Justice’s resolve to enforce those rules. We will continue to work with our partners at the FTC to safeguard children’s online privacy.”

“The Justice Department takes seriously its mission to protect the online privacy rights of children and their parents. This order spells out clearly to all online providers that it is unacceptable to collect children’s personal information without their parents’ consent,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “The department is committed to protecting against unauthorized online collection and retention of information, especially from children.”

“This order makes clear that ed tech providers cannot outsource compliance responsibilities to schools, or force students to choose between their privacy and education,” said Director Samuel Levine of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Other ed tech providers should carefully examine their practices to ensure they’re not compromising students’ privacy.”

This matter was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Vivian Wang for the Northern District of California, Senior Trial Attorney James T. Nelson and Assistant Director Lisa Hsiao of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch, and Gorana Neskovic and Peder Magee of the FTC.

Antioch Unified Didn’t Use Edmodo’s Technology

Superintendent Stephanie Anello said the Antioch Unified School District did not use Edmodo’s technology for online education during COVID.

For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit its website at For more information about the FTC, visit its website at

Allen D. Payton contributed to this report.

Cal CASA highlights volunteers during National Foster Care Month

Wednesday, May 24th, 2023

By Sharon M. Lawrence, Esq, CEO, California CASA Association

In observance of National Foster Care MonthCalifornia CASA highlights the work of Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers who advocate for the needs of children and youth in foster care. Thank you to the 11,000 CASA volunteers statewide for being a consistent presence and reliable resource for 12,700 children and youth during times of uncertainty and transition.

With more than 78,000 children and youth in foster care in the state—victims of neglect, abuse, or exploitation—we need to do more. A CASA volunteer often represents their only stable, trusted relationship with an adult; the one person who will speak up for them—in court, in school, and in the community—to make sure their voice is heard, and their needs remain the top priority. 

The CASA volunteer model works. Youth in foster care supported by a CASA volunteer are more likely to do better in school, receive more services, secure a permanent home, and have higher levels of hope.

California CASA works in partnership with our state’s 44 local CASA programs. Our vision is to ensure every child in foster care in California can have access to the transformative services and support of a CASA volunteer.

You can help foster more hopeful futures—one child, one CASA, at a time—by making a gift to California CASA today. Your gift will enable us to expand our collective impact so every child in foster care has a chance to thrive, with the skilled and compassionate support of a CASA volunteer.

Antioch council majority agrees to revise policy on hiring outside attorneys so it doesn’t apply to them

Wednesday, May 24th, 2023

Torres-Walker, Thorpe repeatedly interrupt city attorney during discussion

By Allen D. Payton

During Tuesday night’s Antioch Council meeting agenda on May 23, 2023, the council reviewed the City policy, for all of its departments, regarding the selection of contracted attorneys and the review, authorization and execution of all agreements for legal services and services to be provided by attorneys to the City. But the focus was revising the policy so that the council is not included.

Currently City Attorney Thomas L. Smith is charged with that responsibility based on the policy approved by the city council two years ago. But, last fall, the council, on a 3-2 vote, directed City Manager Con Johnson to hire an outside attorney for them on an invalid contract after Smith warned them three times not to, according to District 1 Councilman Mike Barbanica. That cost the city $39,000. (See related article)

According to the city staff report on the item, the Antioch City Council on February 26, 2021 approved the following:

“1. The City Attorney shall exercise discretion over the selection of all attorneys providing Legal Services, as defined herein, for the City including all of its departments.

2. [A]ll agreements for the provision of Legal Services, as defined herein, to the City, including all of its departments, or on behalf of the City that are to be paid by the City shall be submitted to the City Attorney for review and approval, and the City Attorney shall have the discretion to approve and execute all such agreements on behalf of the City when the City Attorney determines the agreement is consistent with Antioch Municipal Code, Title 3, Chapter 4, Article II. Any agreements for Legal Services to the City or on behalf of the City that are not approved by the City Attorney in writing shall be void.

3. [A]ll invoices for Legal Services, as defined herein, shall be required to be submitted to the City Attorney for review and payment through the City Attorney’s Office. No payment shall be made for Legal Services pursuant to existing or future agreements unless approved in writing by the City Attorney. Therefore, the budgeted amount for the City Attorney’ s Office shall include the amounts necessary for the payment of such invoices.”

“I think that pretty sums it all up,” said resident Andrew Becker during public comments on the item. “We approve ordinances in this city which are the law then we come to meetings, brazenly and we try to find a way to work around them. Whatever those determinations are you still have to live inside what the law is. You open us up…and you so brazenly do it. I voted for it with the understanding you would follow the laws in this city. Sometimes the law…means fixing it. But fixing it doesn’t mean circumventing it. Every time something comes to a vote we hear what the mayor says how he wants it to go and we take it. But for you to say we’re going to take our current policies and throw them out the window? For you to go on record and so brazenly say, we’ll figure out. The law? That’s how the healthcare district dissolved.”

“This item is being brought because this is a new policy. We adopted it as part of our police reform,” Thorpe said. “We wanted the city attorney to review the hiring of attorneys. In the past the police department just went and hired their own attorney. As has happened often, this policy binded us as a city council. But we’re the governing board.

“The California government code says the city attorney shall advise the council on all legal matters,” Smith interjected.

“We heard you the first time, thank you,” Thorpe responded. “This policy didn’t allow us to go get a second opinion. As a governing board…we should be able to do that.”

“The very same reason we created this policy is because the community is saying the police department’s internal affairs. Police shouldn’t review themselves,” Torres-Walker stated. “If we don’t trust what the city attorney is giving to us, we should have the right to get a second opinion without the city attorney. Our city attorney shouldn’t be able to hire an attorney to look into themselves.”

“Yes, it was a good policy in hindsight. But the council shouldn’t be included,” she added.

“I’d like to address that. If you don’t trust the people you’ve hired…” City Attorney Smith began saying.

“I don’t think we’re here for the council to get into a back and forth with the city attorney,” Torres-Walker said speaking over him. “I didn’t ask a question of the city attorney.”

Thorpe then allowed him to speak.

“I think it’s important what you said. If you don’t trust your city attorney, you have the ability to hire any city attorney you want. It only takes three votes,” Smith stated.

Torres-Walker interrupted him, again.

Thorpe stopped her and said, “I don’t want to get into a back and forth.”

“I just have to say is if there is a trust issue you can hire…” Smith began saying before being cut off, again.

“I think we’re all aware of that,” Thorpe responded.

“Perhaps the proper terminology isn’t a lack of trust but a disagreement with the advice being offered,” Torres-Walker clarified. “We should be able to seek outside counsel.”

“If we want a second opinion, we should be able to get a second opinion,” Thorpe said asking to have the policy revised.

“I went back and looked….I did not vote for it originally,” Ogorchock said. “I’m not in favor of this, now. He’s just reviewing the contract.”

“No. He would select the attorney,” Thorpe responded. “And we wanted this, and it included us. But I don’t think we should have to get a permission slip.”

“There has to be a city out there similar to ours,” Wilson said. “I can’t imagine there’s not a process that we can take to hire an attorney not of your choosing.”

“Before this policy, that was the case,” Thorpe responded. “If we wanted a second opinion, we could give direction to the city manager to hire an outside attorney. There are different examples. But I don’t want to go down that road. I’m just saying we shouldn’t be a part of this policy. All I’m asking is for that modification to this policy which I still think is a good policy.”

“I think we should go back and revise it,” Torres-Walker said. “There’s never been an instance when I didn’t trust our city attorney. So, I didn’t use the right language. But there was an instance when I didn’t trust the process. City Attorney, this isn’t me saying I don’t trust you. I should have used different language.”

Barbanica then said, “initially I was not for this. I’m fine with the policy the way it is, today.”

Ogorchock simply said, “no.”

Wilson supported revising the policy, agreeing with Thorpe and Torres-Walker that it should not apply to the city council. A revised policy will return for a future vote.

49 state attorneys general file lawsuit against telecom company over billions of illegal robocalls

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2023

An estimated 577 million robocalls sent to California phone numbers on National Do Not Call Registry 

Including Social Security, Medicare and employment scams

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today, as part of a bipartisan coalition of 49 attorneys general, announced a lawsuit against Arizona-based Avid Telecom for allegedly initiating and facilitating billions of unlawful robocalls in California and around the country. Those robocalls included Social Security Administration scams, Medicare scams, and employment scams; two robocall examples can be found here and here. Today’s complaint is the result of efforts by the nationwide Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force, which Attorney General Bonta helped launch last year and is charged with taking legal action against telecommunications companies that perpetuate robocall traffic.

“As the People’s Attorney, I’ve been laser focused on protecting consumers since taking office, and stopping unwanted robocalls is an important bipartisan and nationwide effort,” said Attorney General Bonta. “In addition to being a daily annoyance, robocalls can and do cause real financial damage. I’m taking Avid Telecom to court for delivering not hundreds, or thousands, or millions of robocalls — but billions of robocalls. Our coalition alleges that Avid Telecom has violated federal and state laws, and we are confident that we will prevail.” 

From December 2018 to January 2023, Avid Telecom sent or attempted to transmit over 24.5 billion calls to consumers. More than 90% of those calls lasted under 15 seconds, strongly indicating that they were likely robocalls. Further, Avid Telecom sent or transmitted over 7.5 billion calls to telephone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry, an estimated 577,879,156 of those calls were to telephone numbers in California. Registering for the National Do Not Call Registry allows consumers to legally opt out from receiving telemarketing calls, but robocallers regularly fail to respect such legal prohibitions.

In the multistate coalition’s complaint, among other misconduct, Attorney General Bonta alleges that Avid Telecom:

  • Violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits any person from making a call using an automatic telephone-dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice to any cellular telephone;
  • Violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule, which prohibits abusive and deceptive acts or practices by “sellers” or “telemarketers”; 
  • Violated the Truth in Caller ID Act, which prohibits the transmission of misleading or inaccurate caller-ID information;
  • Violated California’s Unfair Competition Law, which prohibits unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent business acts and practices, by transmitting a colossal number of illegal robocalls into California. 

In filing today’s complaint, Attorney General Bonta joined the attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.

Invoices show Thorpe, Torres-Walker held private meetings with outside attorney inappropriately hired by city manager

Tuesday, April 25th, 2023
Portions of Legal bill #2 3261063 dated Feb. 21, 2023 showing billing for private meetings with Mayor Thorpe and Mayor Pro Tem Torres-Walker. Source: City of Antioch

By Allen D. Payton

Following the revelation in tonight’s Antioch City Council meeting agenda, that City Manager Con Johnson hired an outside attorney without proper permission of the city attorney, the first two invoices from the law firm were provided by Acting City Manager Forrest Ebbs today following multiple requests of city staff. The invoices show over $37,000 of work done including for closed session meetings with the city council and private meetings with Mayor Lamar Thorpe and Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker. (See Item O. under Consent Calendar)

The invoices show work began on Oct. 17 under the auspices of a “procedurally invalid” contract, according to the city staff report on the item, before Johnson signed the contract on Nov. 4. Also, the first interaction Gregory Rolen – partner in the San Francisco law firm of Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP – had with the council was on Oct 25, 2022 for “Travel to and from closed session/attend the closed session” billed at 3.6 hours. He charges a rate of $410 per hour.

Page 2 of first invoice from outside attorney dated Jan. 12, 2023. Source: City of Antioch

In addition, almost all of the first bill dated Jan. 12, 2023, for a total of $30,107.20 covered work on the city attorney’s contract, statutory powers, “Rules of Professional Responsibility”, ethical responsibilities and obligations, and work with the city council and Human Resources Director Ana Chavez.

The second invoice dated Feb. 21, 2023 for a total of $7,231.75 included a meeting with Thorpe and Torres-Walker that lasted almost three hours. The invoice shows “01/10/2023 Meeting with Mayor and Vice Mayor” for 2.9 hours. Plus, it shows travel to and from meetings, attendance at the council meeting on Jan. 24, 2023, and another “Teleconference with mayor regarding regulation” for 0.7 hours on Jan. 31, 2023.

That’s in addition to the private half-hour-long meeting Rolen had with Thorpe on Feb. 2, 2023, described as “Teleconference with mayor regarding representation city manager” as previously reported.

Page 3 of first invoice from outside attorney dated Jan. 12, 2023. Source: City of Antioch

Questions for City Attorney, HR Director

In response to the information in the first two invoices, questions were sent Tuesday afternoon to City Attorney Smith and Human Resources Director Ana Cortez. They were asked, “Since outside attorney Greg Rolen did work regarding the city attorney’s contract can you please provide his current contract? Was it renewed for another three years in 2022 and does it run through 2025?”

Smith’s original contract began March 1, 2019 and lasted three years following the council’s 5-0 vote on Feb. 5 to hire him.

Cortez was asked why she worked with the outside attorney and if the city manager directed her to do so. She was also asked if she consulted with Smith to determine if it was proper before incurring the cost to the City.

Smith was asked, since the work was done under a ‘procedurally invalid’ contract, was the work product destroyed or must it be, or can it still be used, and what was the final product from Rolen’s work.

Page from second invoice from outside attorney dated Feb. 21, 2023. Source: City of Antioch

More Questions for Thorpe, Walker, Other Councilmembers

An email was sent to all five council members late Tuesday afternoon asking, “Now that city staff provided the first two invoices from attorney Greg Rolen of Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP, do you have any comment? Did any of you ask why an outside attorney was meeting with you in closed session?”

It was pointed out to them information from the first invoice showing, “12/04/2022 Initiate legal research concerning statutory powers of city Attorney” for 0.90 hours and on “12/05/2022 Locate, review and analyze city Attorney employment agreement” for 1.90 hours.

They were asked, “did the council ask Rolen to do that? Why? Did you not think to look at the Feb. 5, 2019 City Council Agenda item when Thomas was hired? It shows his original contract lasted three years.  See Item #10 – 020519.pdf ( Assuming it was renewed in 2022, it’s safe to say it was done so for another three years through 2025.

Thorpe and Walker were then asked, “why did you have a meeting with Rolen on Jan. 10, 2023 for almost three hours, separate from the other three council members? What did you discuss with him, which is not privileged as it was done under a “procedurally invalid” contract? Why weren’t the other council members included? Shouldn’t you pay for the cost of that meeting totaling $1,189 rather than the taxpayers?”

They all were asked, “why did you need Rolen to attend the council meeting for one hour on Jan. 24? Was that just for the Closed Session? Who invited him to do so? What was discussed with him?”

Finally, Thorpe was asked, “why did you have another teleconference meeting with Rolen on Jan. 31 ‘regarding regulation’ separate from the other four council members? What regulation did you discuss?”

An effort to reach Rolen for comment about the city attorney’s claim the contract was “procedurally invalid” and to ask him questions about his work with Johnson, Cortez and the city council was unsuccessful prior to publication time.

Please check back for any responses or other updates to this report.