Secret Emails Show Kevin Johnson Spying On, Attempting To Bankrupt Enemies
The city clerk of Sacramento has released a trove of correspondencebetween Kevin Johnson and his cronies, over which the scandal-magnet lame-duck mayor of the California capital fought a long, dirty campaign in hopes of keeping it from journalists and legal adversaries. This latest document dump has nothing as tawdry as the abuse allegations leveled against the former NBA star and documented here and elsewhere through the years. But for anybody interested in the dark side of Johnson as an administrator and public official, there is plenty of fascinating material.
The emails come mainly from the early days of Johnson’s hostile takeover of the National Conference of Black Mayors—the mayor and his minions described their mission against the historic Atlanta-based non-profit as a “coup” when they launched it in 2013—and reveal lots of no-goodnik behavior from Johnson and his coup team, a clique of civil servants on the Sacramento payroll, staffers from Johnson’s huge web of nonprofit groups, at least three public relations outfits, volunteer hangers-on, and lots of lawyers from the firm of Ballard Spahr. (At least a dozen Ballard Spahr lawyers have worked pro bono for Johnson on NCBM litigation.) The records indicate that at some point Johnson changed his goal from running the NCBM to ruining it. Johnson’s team, for example, is found dispatching secret agents to spy on NCBM board members at hotels and restaurants while conspiring to sabotage a potential $2 million windfall for the NCBM scheduled to come just a few months before he filed to have the organization dissolved through the bankruptcy courts. The documents also appear to support detractors’ long-leveled allegations that Johnson mingled the NCBM’s mission with that of Michelle Rhee, his wife and fellow school-privatization demagogue.
The city clerk’s release of the documents completes a request made under the California Public Records Act in the spring of 2015 by Cosmo Garvin, a reporter for the Sacramento News & Review. Unlike the rest of the media in the state capital, Garvin covered Johnson tenaciously and aggressively. He knew Johnson was conducting business using Gmail accounts rather than his assigned government address, so he requested any records on the city’s public servers from those personal email accounts. On July 1, 2015, Johnson sued his own city and Garvin’s weekly newspaper to prevent hundreds of emails from being made public, claiming attorney/client privilege.
The Sacramento Bee, the local daily which has run interference for Johnson for most of his tenure in office, also originally sought these emails, but, as spelled out in Johnson’s complaint against the city and SN&R, was asked by the mayor to rescind the request and complied in cowardly fashion. The Bee gave Johnson’s bizarre, wholly unprecedented suit almost no ink. That left the relatively tiny SN&R to shoulder legal expenses by itself; ultimately some costs were defrayed through contributions to a legal Secret Emails Show Kevin Johnson Spying On, Attempting To Bankrupt Enemies: