2 city council members demand Antioch mayor resign following sexual harassment lawsuit

ByAnser Hassan via KGO logo
Friday, September 16, 2022
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Two Antioch City Council members demand Mayor Lamar Thorpe resign following sexual harassment lawsuit.

ANTIOCH, Calif. (KGO) -- Two Antioch city council members are calling on Mayor Lamar Thorpe to resign, after learning that the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors settled a sexual harassment lawsuit against him last month.

"My phone hasn't stopped ringing all day. And members of my district, people (who) live in the district, are asking me to please step forward and ask for the mayor to resign," says Antioch Mayor Pro Tem, Michael Barbanica.

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Barbanica says he emailed Thorpe on Thursday asking him to resign but hasn't heard back from the mayor.

"I do not believe that the behavior that is suspected - not convicted, but suspected here - is indicative of a leader within our community," says Barbanica, who could possibly become mayor if Thorpe is removed.

Court documents show two women accused Mayor Thorpe of sexual harassment, unwanted sexual advances and hostile working conditions while he was the executive director of the Los Medanos Community Healthcare District.

The law firm representing the women did not return ABC7 News' requests for comment.

"As a woman... that is why I am asking for the resignation. This is inexcusable. We can't behave in this manner and be in a leadership position," said Council member Lori Ogorchock, who joined Barbanica in calling for the mayor's resignation.

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In an email to ABC7, Mayor Thorpe responded by saying," "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."

He goes on to say, "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."

The mayor also provided a statement from Patt Young, the former Chair of the Los Medanos Community Healthcare District.

She writes, "As the former chair of the Los Medanos Community Health Care District (LMCHD), and as a woman, I can say unequivocally that the allegations made against Mr. Thorpe are completely false. When presented with the information, it was clear that they lacked facts and evidence. In the mind of the board majority, had this gone to court, it would have been very clear to any jury that Mr. Thorpe is completely innocent."

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"When we are talking about Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors to have an insurance company pay out $350,000 to two victims that have outlined sexual harassment claims, I take that very seriously," says Barbanica, suggesting that settlements are often an indication that the defendant has a weak case.

But some say the county board of supervisors may have settled the lawsuit because the Los Medanos Community Healthcare District was dissolved earlier this year.

Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors Chairperson Karen Mitchoff's staff responded to a request for comment from ABC7 News, by saying, "The Supervisor has no comment on this."

Council members Barbanica and Ogorchock both admit that neither has spoken to any of the supervisors. Nor have they spoken to the women who filed the lawsuit, saying they want to respect their privacy.

This isn't the first attempt to get Mayor Thorpe removed from office. A recall effort launched last year failed to get the required signatures to move forward.

Mayor Pro Tem Barbanica says he plans to meet with the city attorney next week to consider the legal next steps.

"This is a distraction for our city. We have a city of 114,000 people, and the council has very serious business to do," says Council member Barbanica.

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