Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe should resign. And political allies who defend him should stop enabling his alcohol-fueled and misogynistic behavior.
The release this week of an investigation detailing his sexual harassment, including groping, of two subordinates while he was executive director of the Los Medanos Healthcare District should be the final straw.
The investigation found sufficient evidence that Thorpe grabbed the bare leg of one of the women, made inappropriate comments to her and even commented that his behavior constituted sexual harassment. And that Thorpe made inappropriate and vulgar comments to the other woman, then grabbed her buttock.
Thorpe has denied the allegations and denigrated the women. He told the investigator that one of the women had come on to him. Separate from the investigation, a former friend of the mayor says Thorpe told her that the women had concocted the story and that he used disparaging terms to describe them.
To read the investigation report, scroll to the bottom of this editorial.
Thorpe is the leader of a City Council that is badly fractured between the conservative and progressive factions. He has exacerbated the division with his treatment of his colleagues and his personal actions. Earlier this year, Thorpe survived a recall attempt that failed to qualify for the ballot. But the latest information is the most troubling and well-documented account of his behavior.
Thorpe’s mayoral term lasts through 2024. He shouldn’t be in office. If voters knew then what they know now, he would not have been elected. For the sake of the city, Thorpe should step aside.
The investigation was commissioned by the health care district’s attorney in September 2021 after the two women filed complaints of sexual harassment. The district was subsequently disbanded, with its assets and liabilities turned over to Contra Costa County, which, in August, settled the claims for $350,000.
On Tuesday, in response to a Public Records Act request from this news organization, the county released the investigation report. While Thorpe has called the women’s claims “completely false,” the report — which considered testimony from the women and six other people as well as supporting documents, including text messages and Facebook postings — presents a very different picture.
The incident involving the first woman occurred in June 2021 at an Antioch bar to which Thorpe had invited her and her boyfriend, who witnessed the leg-grab. The woman believed Thorpe was drunk, according to the account she gave the investigator. She and her boyfriend in separate interviews quoted Thorpe as saying, “This is sexual harassment, I should stop.”
The incident involving the second woman occurred in August 2021 at a work conference in Monterey. Witnesses behind the woman and Thorpe saw him walking in a zig-zag fashion consistent with alcohol consumption and hanging on to the woman. The woman recounted that Thorpe made a vulgar comment indicating he wanted to have sex with her and then grabbed her buttock.
Thorpe, in an October interview with the investigator, said he had only consumed two drinks that night. Five months after the interview, Thorpe was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. After the arrest, he issued a video statement apologizing for his “lapse in judgment” driving after drinking. Despite the apology, Thorpe has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Thorpe also denied to the health care district’s investigator that he had groped either woman last summer. But the investigator found that several of Thorpe’s statement were contradicted by other statements and evidence provided.
Some people who know Thorpe well also have not accepted his denials.
City Clerk Ellie Householder, a former ally, broke ties with him “because of his increasingly erratic and hurtful behavior,” she wrote in a Sept. 17 letter she posted on Facebook.
“A person I have loyally stood by for years has used his power and influence over women to take advantage of them, and for this, I am truly sorry. To the women; I am sorry. I see you. I hear you, and I believe you.”
Lacey Ferguson, a local progressive political activist and former Thorpe supporter, says she had been an occasional consensual sexual partner of Thorpe and was not claiming to be a victim. But, in a Sept. 18 Facebook video, she defended the two women who filed the sexual harassment claims and said she was speaking out against the “culture and history of misogyny that does surround Lamar.”
Thorpe should resign not because of his politics, but because of his behavior. And the criticisms of that behavior are not, as some of his defenders have suggested, because of his race.
As Ferguson sees it, “Between Lamar and people like the proponents of the recall against him, our city has been polarized into two groups. You are either 100% in support of Lamar or you are with the racists coming after him for the wrong reasons — no room has been left for legitimate criticisms and he is able to use this as a weapon against those who do wish to speak out in disagreement.”
It’s time for that to end. Racism cannot be tolerated. And sexual harassment cannot be tolerated, especially not from our elected officials. Thorpe should resign.