The City of Antioch has fired spokesperson Rolando Bonilla amid a tense political drama involving the city manager, the police union, and the chief of police.
The latest firestorm began in the early morning hours of Feb. 17 when a burglar broke into the Hillcrest Restaurant and Taphouse and ransacked the business. Owner Dwayne Gilliland saw the break-in happen on his security camera and phoned police. It took them four hours to respond.
The delay set off a search for answers. Antioch Police Officers Association President Sgt. Rick Hoffman was quick to blame staffing shortages and “ongoing rhetoric” from Mayor Lamar Thorpe.
In a statement to KRON4, Spokesperson Bonilla shot back. He included a quote from Police Chief Steven Ford criticizing the police union for “circus-like antics.” There was just one problem. Chief Ford never made such a statement. It was falsely attributed to him – and he was furious. Bonilla was later fired by City Manager Cornelius “Con” Johnson.
Bonilla says he’s become a sacrificial lamb. He claims the quote that he falsely attributed to Chief Ford was provided “at the direction” of Johnson.
“The work of reforming a city’s culture is never easy but, outside of trusting the City Manager, I absolutely do not regret any decision that I made while serving the city of Antioch,” Bonilla said in an email to The Mercury News.
The misquote firestorm is part of a larger debate over policing in the city. Eight officers, who represent about 10% of the city’s police force, are currently on leave pending a federal grand jury investigation. Antioch’s mayor and city manager have vowed to reform the police department, but have often found themselves at odds with Chief Ford over how they characterize the department.
Read more about Antioch’s political drama at The Mercury News.