While DA’s office investigating incident; city attorney or interim city manager may have been present; topic of discussion not revealed
By Allen D. Payton
Three days after Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe was arrested for DUI and while the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office was investigating the incident, on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, he held a private meeting with D.A. Diana Becton in her office in Martinez, according to reports of what was seen on her visitor sign-in log. Neither Becton, her staff nor Thorpe will say what the meeting was about or if anyone else, such as the city attorney or interim city manager, was in the room with them. Becton is running for re-election in the June Primary and Thorpe is facing possible recall. (See related article)
A Public Records Act request for a copy of the visitor sign-in log for Becton’s office for that day was emailed on Friday, March 25 at 3:55 p.m. to Assistant D.A. Simon O’Connell and Becton’s Executive Assistant Bobbi Mauler.
Questions for Becton About Meeting Go Unanswered
In addition, questions for Becton about the meeting were included in that email asking, “What was the purpose of that meeting? What was discussed? Did it have anything to do with Thorpe’s arrest for DUI by the CHP last Saturday morning? Was anyone else in the meeting with you two?”
It was then shared with Becton and her staff, “according to the CHP PIO you will not allow that department to release Thorpe’s complete arrest report showing the reason the officer pulled him over or what his blood alcohol content was when he was tested at the CHP office in Martinez.”
She was then asked, “was it appropriate for you to have such a meeting – even if his arrest was not a topic of conversation – when his arrest is under investigation by your department?”
At 4:09 p.m., that day O’Connell issued a press release about the investigation of the Antioch and Pittsburg Police Departments for possible “crimes of moral turpitude”. (See related article)
Questions for Thorpe Go Unanswered
In an email on Friday, March 25, Thorpe was asked, “What was the purpose of that meeting? When did you first schedule the meeting with the DA? What was discussed? Did it have anything to do with your arrest for DUI by the CHP last Saturday morning? Was anyone else in the meeting with you two?”
He was then told, “according to the CHP PIO the DA’s office will not allow the CHP to release your complete arrest report showing the reason the officer pulled you over or what your blood alcohol content was when you were tested at the CHP office in Martinez.”
Thorpe was also asked, “was it appropriate for you to have such a meeting – even if your arrest was not a topic of conversation – while your arrest is under investigation by the Contra Costa District Attorney’s office? Were you seeking favorable treatment from the DA in dealing with your arrest? Might it give the appearance that you were seeking a favor from the DA who is up for election, this year and while you are facing possible recall?”
He was then asked if instead, was the meeting in regard to the press release issued by the DA’s office received, that day and if he had filed a complaint about that the allegations against the Antioch Police officers with the DA’s office during that meeting.
Thorpe did not respond as of Wednesday, March 30 at 5:00 p.m.
DA Refuses to Confirm Meeting, Claims Privilege in Not Releasing Visitor Log, Won’t Reveal Topic of Discussion or If Anyone else Present
In response to the PRA request to the D.A.’s office for a copy of the visitor log, Assistant D.A. Simon O’Connell wrote in a letter on Tuesday, March 29, “Records that contain information protected by the deliberative process privilege and the official information privilege, are exempt from disclosure. (Gov. Code, section 6254(a), (k); Evid Code, section 1040; Rogers v. Superior Court (1993) 19 Cal.App.4th 469.) In accordance case precedent, the release of visitor logs would inihibit the free and candid exchange of ideas necessary to the decision-making process. (Times Mirror Co (1988) 53 Cal.3. 1325.) There is a compelling public interest in enabling public agencies to evaluate and candidly communicate in confidence. Public disclosure of such information interferes with the District Attorney’s Office ability to meaningfully deliberate and perform core functions. For these reasons, the public interest in nondisclosure of this information clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”
In response, additional questions were sent Tuesday afternoon to both O’Connell and Mauler, including, “Confirming that a meeting was held by the DA in her office with an elected official who is currently under investigation for a DUI arrest just three days prior is not of public interest? Is the visitor log a public document? If not, what’s the purpose of having one? Can you please at least confirm if a meeting was held by DA Becton in her office with Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe and if anyone else was in the meeting with them, and if so, who that was?”
No response was received as of Wednesday, March 30 at 5:00 p.m.
Mayor Pro Tem Barbanica Says He Should Have Been in Meeting Instead of Thorpe
When reached for comment about the meeting, Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica said, “I don’t know anything about the meeting. But if there was one and if it was regarding the investigation of the Antioch Police Department and the mayor had asked for me to go in his place, I would have and I should have been there instead. I did not receive any calls about it.”
Please check back later for any updates to this report.