The Antioch City Council has suspended City Manager Cornelius “Con” Johnson following a closed session vote taken before the beginning of the public portion of its meeting Tuesday.
City attorney Thomas Lloyd Smith reported at the beginning of the public meeting the council voted 3-0 on councilmember Michael Barbanica’s motion to suspend Johnson, with Mayor Lamar Thorpe and councilmember Tamisha Torres-Walker late.
Thorpe arrived nearly an hour into the public portion, saying he was delayed by a late flight. Barbanica missed the public portion because of a medical issue.
The item was listed on the council agenda as “CONFERENCE WITH LEGAL COUNSEL – ANTICIPATED LITIGATION – Significant exposure to litigation pursuant to California Government Code section 54956.9(b): One case.”
Following the decision, city human resources manager Ana Cortez takes over as interim city manager.
Johnson is a retired San Francisco police captain who was hired on an interim basis in November 2021, which became permanent last year. He is the city’s first Black city manager and previously served as Thorpe’s campaign manager.
During debate over Johnson’s initial hiring, Barbanica asked the council to delay the decision. He voted against Johnson’s appointment, as did councilmember Lori Ogorchock.
Johnson came to the job with no city administrative management experience. He earned a bachelor’s degree in public administration, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of San Francisco.
There was controversy last month when Johnson was named in an Antioch police news release as the person to whom former city public information officer Ronaldo Bonilla answered.
Bonilla no longer works for the city. The police press release said Bonilla attributed a false statement to Antioch Police Chief Steven A. Ford in an earlier news release about commercial burglaries in Antioch.