Antioquia city administrator placed on leave amid turmoil at city hall


ANTIOQUIA — City Manager Cornelius “Con” Johnson has been placed on administrative leave, the Antioquia City Council ruled Tuesday night.

The vote was announced as council members emerged from a closed hearing – and it came as a shock to Johnson, who said he had been ill on Tuesday.

“I have no idea what’s going on,” Johnson told the Bay Area News Group. “I wasn’t there in closed session so this is a surprise to me.”

The City Council named Johnson, a former San Francisco police chief and longtime Antioquia resident, as city administrator in October 2022, awarding him a contract worth $266,400 a year.

The reasons behind his departure are unclear.

Over the weekend, this newspaper reported that the city spokesman blamed Johnson for a quote he provided to a Bay Area TV news station. It turned out to be falsely attributed to Chief of Police Steven Ford. The chief of police demanded – and received – a retraction from the wire service.

Johnson later fired city-hired public information officer Rolando Bonilla, who claimed he was only doing what Johnson asked of him.

Cornelius Johnson was hired as City Manager for the City of Antioquia in October 2022. (Courtesy of Cornelius Johnson)

When asked on Tuesday night, Johnson said he “cannot speculate” whether the board’s vote to put him on leave had anything to do with the false statement attributed to the police chief.

“I just don’t know,” he said. “I cannot speculate.”

He also questioned whether disciplinary action was properly placed on the board’s agenda, as required by state law.

“If it was a personnel issue, it would have had to be on the agenda, and actually it would have been dealt with behind closed doors on that issue, but it wasn’t on the agenda,” Johnson said. “Then I don’t know what happened…I don’t know how someone could act like that without me being there, without my being informed. I just don’t know.

An email to city attorney Thomas Smith was not immediately returned.

“I’m sure they’ll call me tomorrow and let me know what happened and I’ll have an opportunity to respond,” Johnson said.

While Johnson is on leave, Human Resources Director Ana Cortez will serve as interim city manager. Last week, Deputy City Manager Rosanna Bayon Moore left to take over as Piedmont’s next city manager.

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