A week after apologizing for inappropriate behavior toward a councilwoman and legislative aide — and announcing that he would seek counseling and not run for re-election — Councilman Dan Johnson, D-21, said at a Beechmont Neighborhood Association meeting Monday night that his recent troubles were “all bullshit,” according to multiple attendees.
This news comes one day after The Courier-Journal reported that Johnson’s attorney sent cease and desist letters last week to Councilwoman Jessica Green, D-1, and the legislative aide of Councilwoman Angela Leet, R-7, threatening legal action against the two women who came forward with allegations of misconduct against Johnson.
Green alleged that Johnson squeezed her buttock during a group photo on June 7, and she notified council President David Yates of the incident in a letter the next day. Johnson denied that he intentionally did so, even tweeting that it was Green who harassed him. The following week, news broke that Leet’s legislative aide had reported last year that Johnson exposed his buttocks to her in the parking lot outside council offices.
On June 14, the council’s Democratic Caucus released a statement announcing that Johnson would seek counseling and not run for re-election next year, and Johnson issued letters apologizing to both women, though he maintained both incidents were accidental. Both Green and Leet called those measures insufficient, saying that Johnson should resign from his position immediately instead of serving out his final 18 months in office.
While Johnson sounded contrite last week, he did not appear so in his remarks at the Beechmont Neighborhood Association meeting on Monday night, according to multiple people in the room who shared independent accounts of what happened with IL. By their accounts, Johnson mentioned the trouble he had been embroiled in over the past two weeks, but said that was all “bullshit” and that people needed to move on.
Johnson declined to comment on what he said at the meeting and denied an interview request.
Told of Johnson’s comments at the neighborhood meeting, Leet told IL “I guess at this point I’m not shocked by what Councilman Johnson will say. Or do, for that matter.” She hopes that Johnson will voluntarily resign under increased calls for him to do so, but if he sticks around, Leet “will seek other remedies that are available.”
In a statement to IL, Councilwoman Green also ripped Johnson’s comments as “another pathetic attempt to divert attention from what the real issues are: sexual harassment, scare tactics to silence accusers, and continued victimization by an individual who clearly has a pattern. I want to reiterate my statement that it is my hope that Councilman Johnson immediately resign.”
In the cease and desist letter sent by Johnson’s attorney, Thomas McAdam, Green was accused of “spreading false, destructive, and defamatory rumors” with malice against Johnson, who is a “respected elected official” with “a positive reputation.” Both Green and Leet’s legislative aide were given 10 days to comply with the demands of Johnson’s attorney before legal action is taken.
Councilman Robin Engel, R-22, issued a statement Tuesday saying it’s clear Johnson is “neither apologetic nor able to change his ways,” and that Johnson “should resign from this council and should seek professional help immediately.”
Democratic caucus chair Bill Hollander, D-9, and vice chair Cheri Bryant Hamilton, D-5, began an investigation into Johnson’s actions on June 8 in accordance with their caucus rules. According those same rules, a letter recommending possible disciplinary actions — including a suspension or expulsion from the caucus, or a censure — is due to be delivered to Johnson from the caucus leadership by Thursday. Johnson would then have 14 days to respond, after which the caucus could take disciplinary measures by a two-thirds vote.
While the Democrats may vote to expel Johnson from their caucus, there is no method to force the councilman out of office through the rules of their caucus.
Though the caucus leadership is due to send their recommendation to Johnson tomorrow, Leet’s legislative aide tells IL that no one from that investigation has interviewed her yet about the incident with Johnson last year in the parking lot. However, a Democratic caucus representative tells IL that its caucus rules provide that charges of alleged violations be filed in writing, and the only written charge they have received is the one regarding Councilwoman Green’s allegations concerning Johnson.
Johnson has been no stranger to controversy over the past several years, including being banned from future GLI events because he allegedly became intoxicated and repeatedly harassed a female staffer on a GLI-sponsored trip to Austin, Texas. Several council members also told IL that Johnson became intoxicated on a council trip to Frankfort and vomited on their bus on the way back. Johnson also has run into trouble with bounced checks for his city-funded cell phone and to Action Loan owner Gus Goldsmith.
This story has been updated.