I had previously reported on the coup of Sacramento’s Democratic Mayor Kevin Johnson in taking over the National Conference of Black Mayors (NCBM), though at the time the reasons behind it seemed murky.
But I missed this follow-up in Deadspin, because it’s pretty far from my regular reading list, plus the Gawker ickiness factor.
But there does seem to be enough smoke there to suggest some sort of fire:
Johnson is a youngish, attractive Democrat with a reputation as a national leader on education issues, a gift for making powerful friends, and a superficially impressive background—UC Berkeley, a long run as a top NBA star, a successful business career. He’s just the sort of politician a lot of people want to believe, and a lot of people have done so. His mayoralty will even soon be the subject of a laudatory entry in ESPN’s acclaimed 30 For 30 documentary series.
The scandals didn’t much matter in 2008, when he easily won election in the face of credible accusations that he’d molested teenage girls, defrauded the federal government of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and lorded over an empire of slum holdings. And they haven’t much mattered since, as he’s gone from success to success, his star rising ever higher in the Democratic Party firmament through most of his career.
As mayor, he’s incurred sexual harassment charges in the course of waging a bizarre war on an obscure non-profit organization; soaked taxpayers in his hometown for hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new arena for the Sacramento Kings; and used public employees to do his own private political work while attempting to hide the evidence by keeping email records off the books, Hillary Clinton-style.
Deadspin lays the cause of Johnson’s recent actions to his desire to profit from private charter schools.
Johnson’s latest scandal involves:
“He got a major national law firm to sue both the city of Sacramento and the Sacramento News & Review simply because the tiny weekly newspaper had filed a public-records request.”
He’s claiming attorney/client privilege for any records related to the NCBM.
He’s asserting that “40 people besides Johnson whom they claim are covered by attorney/client privilege, including 10 lawyers from the firm who worked for Johnson on NCBM-related matters,” also including “every member of his official mayoral staff—including communications director Ben Sosenko, chief of staff Daniel Conway, and advisors[sic] Patti Bisharat, Cassandra Jennings, Helen Hewitt, and Adrianne Hall.”
“Lots of folks who used Sacramento city government titles and worked out of City Hall while doing Johnson’s dirty work in the NCBM fiasco were in fact not employed by the city government. They were instead charter school advocates, funded by charter school ideologues, who kept their true allegiances and mission hidden.”
“Johnson has a history of not abiding by disclosure rules. In 2012, the California Fair Political Practices Commission (CFPPC), a panel charged with enforcing state financial disclosure laws, found that Johnson had failed to report at least 25 donations totaling $3.1 million made at his direction to his non-profits…To settle the case, Johnson agreed to pay a fine of $37,500, the largest penalty ever handed down to a public official in the state for non-disclosure violations.”
One need not embrace Deadspin’s, er, spin, which seems to be an attempt to keep money keep money going to failing unionized public schools (which I take to be their real reason in going after Johnson) to see many of Johnson’s actions as unethical and probably illegal.
All of this may go a long way to explain why ESPN has shelved an installment of their acclaimed 30 for 30 documentary series about Johnson.
Now, I happen to be a lot more pro-charter school than Deadspin evidently is. So if Kevin Johnson’s people want to contact me and explain his side of the story, I’d be happy to run a follow-up…