If Ken Johnson Had a Shred of Dignity He'd Resign Immediately

[image-1] Cleveland.com's Mark Naymik must be extremely confused. His several exposés on Ward 4 Councilman Ken Johnson's prolonged and wanton misuse of public dollars have had zero effects. But Johnson's behavior should be treated like the scandal it is.

Late yesterday afternoon, Naymik published yet another story about Johnson's misdeeds in office. Johnson, it turns out, has been receiving $1,200 a month from City Council in reimbursements for what he calls "ward services." This is the maximum allowable amount for such reimbursements. Go figure.

For the past 2.5 years, a full-time employee of the city's recreation department, Robert Earl Fitzpatrick, who also happens to live on Johnson's street and once shared an address with him, has supposedly been performing these services. No one with a brain believes that any services have been performed. Council has been cutting Johnson the checks, and it's unknown what Johnson has been doing with the free money. Splitting it with Fitzpatrick? Taking it all for himself? 

This is just the latest bullshit. This whole saga started when Naymik reported back in July — JULY! — that Buckeye-Shaker Development Corporation was in dire financial straits and had become essentially a grass-cutting operation that employed those who had "direct conflicts of interest" with Johnson, including one of Johnson's sons.

Note: An earlier version of this story said that Ken Johnson's council assistant, Garnell Jamison, was also the councilman's son. That is incorrect, an error by the author.

The conflicted employees of Buckeye-Shaker couldn't be paid with Federal Funds and were costing the organization $180,000 per year. A small auditing firm, in a letter that was sent to the city, said that this was the "root cause" of many of the organization's financial woes, and it would not be able to stay afloat much longer. 

Naymik's stories have been published steadily since then. They are always greeted with amazement by residents and greeted with proportional silence and assent by Johnson's colleagues, who seem pleased as punch to let their public office be thus debased.

They can rest assured, though, that their office is being debased. These stories should be regarded with supreme embarrassment by Mayor Frank Jackson and every last member of City Council. Johnson's behavior is almost certainly criminal; and if not, represents sustained abuse of his elected office.

Cleveland leaders need to wake up! This should not be controversial at all. Johnson's behavior is outrageous! Naymik's very first story should have triggered an investigation! If he had even a shred of dignity he would have resigned long ago. But in Cleveland, he must know that he'd receive zero pressure to stop doing what he's been doing.

The poor residents of Ward 4! They've been bullied and manipulated by this leisure-suit loser for decades. Johnson's been doing next to nothing for at least as long as I've been covering the city. Literally, the very first story I pitched when I walked in the door at Scene in January of 2013 was "Where is Ken Johnson?" because he never showed up to council meetings. This guy's a joke.

He needs to resign. Full stop. Jackson and Kelley need to force it if he won't do it himself. Critically, he must forfeit his right to appoint a successor. That should be absolutely non-negotiable. Why would anyone believe that Johnson even has the capacity to appoint a replacement who gives a shit about representing Ward 4 — and not just his family and friends — in good faith? Residents of Ward 4 must be allowed to pick a representative for themselves and rid themselves of this stain.

(Once again, props to Naymik for shining this long overdue spotlight.) 
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Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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