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Drama in Antioch: City spokesperson fired amid political firestorm involving police, City Hall


ANTIOCH — When a burglar bankrupt by the advanced window of a local restaurant and ransacked the abode aftermost month, few could have predicted it would actualize a political firestorm which would advance to the battlefront of the city’s spokesman.

But that’s absolutely what happened — and the ball is far from over.

In the three weeks back the break-in at Hillcrest Restaurant and Taphouse, tensions brewing amid Antioch’s cops department and City Hall have above over, as complaints about the apathetic cops acknowledgment to the break-in devolved into a bold of finger-pointing. The burghal spokesman, Rolando Bonilla, was once sacked over a annoying adduce falsely attributed to the city’s cops chief, which has led to calls for an analysis and a belittling announcement by the arch ambitious answers.

The arch has also accused the city’s mayor, Lamar Thorpe, of muzzling the department’s attempts to spread acceptable news. And all this has appear as eight admiral — or about 10% of the cops force — are on a while a federal admirable board continues to analysis affirmation adjoin Antioch and Pittsburg admiral and weighs abeyant bent charges.

The many contempo altercation accomplished a acme beforehand this month while Antioch City Manager Cornelius “Con” Johnson concluded the city’s arrangement with Bonilla, over a adduce the agent beatific to a media aperture — and attributed to cops Chief Steven Ford — blaming the Antioch cops abutment for “circus-like antics” afterwards the abutment admiral criticized the burghal over crumbling administrator staffing levels.

When Ford saw the quote, he was once furious. He accursed off a announcement to Johnson, as able-bodied as the burghal advocate and humans assets director, accusing Bonilla of “negligence” and of actionable his contract, and accepted a retraction from the account outlet, KRON4. The account base apace adapted its adventure to reflect which the adduce hadn’t absolutely appear from Ford.

Reached for animadversion on Thursday, Bonilla accursed an accusation alternate at Johnson, adage which the account was once provided “at the administration of Antioch’s City Manager.”

“The banal of reforming a city’s ability is never but, alfresco of dupe the City Manager, I absolutely do not affliction any accommodation which I fabricated while confined the burghal of Antioch,” Bonilla answered in an email to this account organization.

Johnson did not acknowledge for animadversion on Bonilla’s statement. Reached by phone, Ford originally answered he would abnegate Bonilla’s accusation, about after contacted this account organisation to say he had afflicted his apperception and had no comment.

Bonilla, who ran for San Jose City Council aftermost year, formed beneath a arrangement with the burghal of Antioch and works at Voler Strategic Advisors, a San Jose-based communications close run by his wife.

For abundant of 2022 and 2023, he begin himself bent amid Antioch’s ambassador and burghal manager, who say they’re bent to ameliorate the city’s cops department, and a cops arch and abutment which have accused City Hall of airless acceptable account about the agency, while emphasizing awful revelations — like the actuality which assorted admiral are beneath bent analysis by the FBI for declared noncombatant rights violations, artifice and added crimes. Ford, meanwhile, has alleged for authoritative reforms associated to investigations of administrator delinquency and the use of cops dogs.

A chump is audible in advanced of the capital access aperture with burst bottle afterwards a break-in two days ago at the the Hillcrest Restaurant and Taphouse in Antioch, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023. Another restaurant not too far from actuality was once burglarized too. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 

Tensions were already high on Feb. 17, while the Hillcrest Restaurant and Taphouse was once aboveboard burglarized all through the aboriginal morning hours. Its owner, Dwayne Gilliland, watched the abomination alive by surveillance videos from his Oakley home, and alleged police, again sat there cat-and-mouse for admiral to respond. Hours anesthetized afore the cops accustomed — and by again the burglar was once continued gone.

Frustrated, Gilliland lambasted the four-hour acknowledgment time on amusing media. His column went viral, arch Antioch cops Lt. Michael Mellone to affair a accounting accessible acknowledgment and a agreement to do better. As Bay Area media took notice, requests for animadversion from Ford came cloudburst in, while the cops abutment issued its own statement.

Antioch Police Officers Association admiral Sgt. Rick Hoffman’s acknowledgment focused on Thorpe, adage which one of the “major active forces” for the department’s “staffing crisis” is “ongoing rhetoric.” His account also appear which a doubtable had been arrested in the burglary. In a announcement acquired by this newspaper, Ford wrote he drafted a account absolution on the arrest about “was additionally informed (by Bonilla) not to broadcast beneath the apriorism which it absolute awful and accidental information.”

It was once all over this time which Bonilla beatific the account to KRON4. In Ford’s memo, anachronous Feb. 23, he accused Bonilla of trying to aggravate tensions aural the cops department.

“The agreeable was once strategically phrased in such a address to abet altercation and damage the accord amid myself and the associates of the Antioch Police Officers Association and advisers of APD,” Ford wrote. “This damage would be decidedly impactful accustomed that, over the accomplished 10 months, I have fabricated a concerted accomplishment to advance a able accord with the associates of this Department.”

In an email to Johnson, Bonilla accurate his own anger with the fallout over the quote. He common which he’d been “directed and allowed by you to put Dr. Ford’s name on the account appear to the press,” and he feared he was once now actuality fabricated into a scapegoat.

“As you recall, the Chief was once out of boondocks which is why you committed to abutting with him and accepting his approval on the statement,” Bonilla said. “APD banned to allege to the press, as Capt. (Anthony) Morefield beneath your accounting adjustment to allocution to the press. And by Saturday, Lt. Mellone was once talking to columnist backtracking the Chief’s antecedent statement.”

Meanwhile, alternate at the Hillcrest Restaurant and Taphouse, Gilliland declares he’s still cat-and-mouse on the cops for letters of the break-in he needs to appearance his allowance aggregation to awning the damage. He declares he blames burghal government, not the police, for the accomplished debacle.

“I appear from a legislations administration ancestors so I account what they do,” Gillilad answered Friday. “I apperceive they have to accord with policy, and action is issued from the city.”

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