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Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Ken Johnson's Pride and Joy, the Kenneth L. Johnson Rec Center, Will No Longer Be the Kenneth L. Johnson Rec Center

Posted By on Tue, Aug 3, 2021 at 11:55 AM

CLEVELAND SCENE VOL. 49, NO. 20, (11/14-20/2018).
  • Cleveland Scene Vol. 49, No. 20, (11/14-20/2018).

The City of Cleveland announced Monday that it had begun the process of removing former councilman Ken Johnson's name from the Kenneth L. Johnson Recreation Center on Woodland Avenue in Ward 4.

Johnson was convicted last week in federal court on 15 counts related to various thefts in office and tax violations that former reporter Mark Naymik exposed in 2018. Among other things, Johnson received more than $120,000 in reimbursement checks for work in Ward 4 that was never performed.

Johnson not only faces up to ten years in prison — he will be sentenced in October, alongside his longtime assistant, Garnell Jamison — but officially loses the council seat he first won in 1979. Johnson had already been suspended by a panel of former judges appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court, but he planned to run for another term in the east side ward that includes portions of Buckeye-Shaker, Woodland Hills and Mt. Pleasant. His conviction precludes him from holding the office. 

Perhaps more precious to Johnson than the seat itself was the recreation center that bore his name. Originally built in the 1920s, the facility was formerly known as the Woodland Avenue Bath House and underwent substantial renovations in 2018.

Johnson was the longtime chair of council's Municipal Services and Properties committee, which oversees the city's department of parks and recreations. In 2013, when he was campaigning to be re-instated on council immediately after resigning, in order to secure his pension and his council salary, (a legal maneuver known as double-dipping), Johnson testified that he was the only active member of council to have a rec center named after him.

The city began removing Johnson's name from the Ward 4 rec center shortly after local protesters gathered there Monday demanding that his name come down. The city said it will require legislation from council to rename the facility.

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