From: The Antioch Herald
By: Allen D. Payton
Claims Police Chief Ford hired outside investigator
“…the initiation of the investigation and the subjects of the investigation are not matters for public disclosure under existing law”…“the mayor single-handedly violated the officers’ right to confidentiality by saying anything at all”…“created far more ‘rumors’ about this investigation, and adverse impacts on the police department and community, than he allayed.” – APOA attorney Mike Rains
Thorpe says claim he “gagged” Ford preventing him from participating in press conference “inaccurate”
This morning, Friday, March 31, 2023, the attorney for the Antioch Police Officers’ Association, Mike Rains issued a statement in response to Mayor Lamar Thorpe’s Thursday press conference on the report of additional officers being placed on leave and under investigation for alleged offensive texts. Those officers are believed to be in addition to the seven remaining officers on the force that have been under investigation by the FBI and Contra Costa DA’s office since last March for alleged “crimes of moral turpitude”. Rains, with the law firm of Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle & Silver, claims Thorpe violated state law and the confidentiality of the officers. He further claims Police Chief Steve Ford placed the involved officers on leave and hired an outside investigator to conduct the investigation.
Statement from RLS Attorney Mike Rains
“Our office represents the Antioch Police Officers’ Association and its individual members in employment related matters. We issue this statement in response to the statement made yesterday by City of Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe.
At the outset, it should be recognized that, despite a recent article in a local newspaper purporting to announce a new investigation by the Antioch Police Department of officers in addition to the ongoing joint investigation by the FBI and the District Attorney’s Office, the initiation of the investigation and the subjects of the investigation are not matters for public disclosure under existing law as set forth in Penal Code section 832.7. Although the newspaper at issue may have published an article from an unknown and undisclosed ‘source’ that was not verified as credible, and which relates to a ‘confidential’ personnel matter under California law, the mayor chose to compound the violation of state law by holding his own self-serving press conference, which prompted questions from some in attendance as to ‘why are we here?’ and ‘why isn’t the police chief here making this announcement?’
The mayor’s stated purpose, as much as we can discern, is that the placement of additional officers on administrative leave would cause ‘staffing issues’ within the police department that might affect the public. But that “concern” was belied by the very fact that the mayor had no idea as to the current staffing level at the police department and could not even tell his audience how many patrol officers are on the force. He also professed, at the beginning of this saga, his ‘respect for confidentiality and the right of officers to due process of law.’ But, as pointed out above, the mayor single-handedly violated the officers’ right to confidentiality by saying anything at all. And with respect to the officers’ right to due process, those rights were trounced when the mayor declared the officers ‘bad apples’ and expressed his ‘serious concern’ for the conduct under investigation. In short, this ‘press conference’ was simply another demonstration by this mayor of his belief, demonstrated by his own conduct resulting in criminal charges and massive civil judgments, that he need not conform his behavior to provisions of the Penal Code or to the laws restricting sexual harassment and discrimination of others in the workplace.
Where was the police chief, Mr. Mayor? In all likelihood he was ‘gagged’ by the mayor and specifically instructed not to be present. If the mayor was truly concerned about the impact of this latest investigation on ‘staffing’ within the police department, who better than Chief Ford to discuss that issue? Why didn’t the well-intentioned mayor simply ‘order’ or ‘direct’ the chief to give the briefing, and stand beside him in support of the chief’s statement? The truth is, as the mayor was forced to concede, the police chief advised the city manager about the new investigation, as he was required to do, and the city manager advised the mayor in accordance with internal reporting requirements of the City. The ‘truth’ of the matter is that the police chief, not the mayor, made the decision to place involved officers in this NON-CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION on administrative leave and asked for the immediate appointment of an ‘outside’ qualified investigator to conduct a thorough and objective investigation of the allegations, which he is required by law to review and adjudicate – something Chief Ford has been doing as a law enforcement executive for many years. And the ‘truth’ of the matter is also that Chief Ford made these decisions (he could have elected to keep the officers under investigation in their current work assignments) after speaking with the district attorney of the County about the situation. That discussion did not involve Mayor Thorpe because it was and still remains a matter that should be handled by the imminently qualified and capable police chief who was not even invited to be present.
As if Mayor Thorpe did not do enough of a disservice to the confidentiality and due process rights of the officers by conducting a disaster of a ‘press conference,’ he did nothing to allay the ‘rumors’ he said were created by the newspaper article, which he admitted ‘was not good.’ With his own evasion and doublespeak on full-display, the mayor single-handedly created far more ‘rumors’ about this investigation, and adverse impacts on the police department and community, than he allayed.”
Thorpe Says Claim of Chief Being “Gagged” “Inaccurate”, Won’t Say If He Was Invited to Press Conference, Refers Additional Questions to City Manager
Thorpe was emailed Rains’ statement for a possible response and asked if he invited Chief Ford to join him at his press conference, and if so if Ford declined or wasn’t available. Thorpe was also asked if Ford wasn’t invited to participate, why not so he could have been there to answer some of the questions that were posed by the media.
Thorpe responded briefly writing, “That would be inaccurate and I’m directing any further questions to Forrest as I’m out of town.”
The additional questions were then sent to Acting City Manager Forrest Ebbs.
Questions for Chief Ford Go Unanswered
In addition, Ford was also sent questions, and copied to Lt. Michael Mellone, director of the department’s Community Engagement Unit and PIO Ashley Crandell asking if he was “gagged” by Mayor Thorpe and prevented from participating in his press conference yesterday. Ford was also asked if Thorpe invited him or anyone from the department to attend and be available to answer questions from the media, and if so, did the chief decline and was he unavailable.
Neither Ebbs nor Ford or the department’s spokespeople responded prior to publication time at 12:30 p.m.