A defiant Councilman Dan Johnson stated at a press conference Thursday that he would resign from the Democratic caucus, but would not resign from his seat on Metro Council. He said he did nothing wrong despite recent allegations that he squeezed the buttocks of Councilwoman Jessica Green, D-1, and bared his buttocks to the legislative aide of Councilwoman Angela Leet, R-7.
Reading a prepared statement, Johnson — who has been a member of the Democratic caucus since first becoming an alderman in 1992 — said that he felt betrayed by members of his party within Metro Council. Last week, the leadership of the Democratic caucus submitted their recommended discipline for Johnson after two weeks of investigating Green’s accusation, giving Johnson two weeks to respond before such discipline was made public and the caucus could vote an any action they would take.
However, shortly afterward, a copy of the investigation was leaked to The Courier-Journal, which reported that caucus chair Bill Hollander and vice chair Cheri Bryant Hamilton recommended that Johnson be censured for his behavior after the initial incident and kicked out of the caucus.
“In the quarter of a century that I have held public office I never would have imagined that the Metro Council Democratic Caucus that I have loved and supported would treat one of their own with such disdain and strip away the most basic due process, innocent until proven guilty,” said Johnson, not looking up from his prepared statement. “While I will always continue to be a member of the Democratic Party, I can no longer continue to be a member of a Democratic Caucus that would disregard and abandon the Democratic values of truth and justice so comfortably.”
Two weeks ago, Johnson sent letters of apology to Green and the legislative aide of Leet, while the Democratic caucus released a statement saying that Johnson had agreed not to seek re-election next year and would seek counseling. However, that same day Johnson’s attorney, Thomas McAdam, sent cease and desist letters to both of the alleged victims, and last week four attendees of the Beechmont Neighborhood Association said that Johnson called all of the recent allegations against him “bullshit.”
Johnson again maintained at the press conference Thursday that his contact with Green was accidental due to him being crowded, and he said he did not recall the alleged incident in which he dropped his pants in front of Leet’s legislative aide in the parking lot outside of city hall. He and his attorney were angry that the recommendation of caucus leadership was leaked to the media before he could craft his own response.
Within the memorandum delivered to Johnson last week by Democratic caucus leadership — which Johnson’s aide handed out to reporters before his remarks — there was one eyewitness to the Green incident besides herself and Johnson, who said he thought the contact was accidental. However, the recommendations of the report went on to detail and criticize Johnson’s behavior after that incident, in which he tweeted that Green was harassing him and had his attorney issue a cease and desist order against her.
Also speaking at the press conference, Johnson’s attorney McAdam described what his client had been subjected to as a “lynching,” saying that Green’s claim was false and that Democrats had essentially convicted Johnson without affording him the right to defend himself. He also stated that he would not answer any questions from Courier-Journal reporter Phillip Bailey, as he previously threatened legal action against the newspaper for its coverage of Johnson, adding that he did not recognize Bailey wearing clothes or without a gun — only explaining that bizarre statement by saying “I’ve seen a picture of you with your pistol.”
Asked by IL what type of counseling Johnson was seeking, McAdam said: “I don’t know anything about that. What do you mean?” Reminded of the statement issued by the caucus that Johnson would seek counseling, he replied “I’m his counselor.”
“He was told that if he would apologize and agree to go to counseling, all of this would go away,” said McAdam. “That was a trap! He apologized for something that he didn’t do. If you’ve ever been married, you know what it means to apologize for something you didn’t do.”
Johnson’s legislative aide, Bryan Mathews, answered that the person who told him it would all go away if he apologized and agreed to counseling was “caucus leadership,” which is Hollander and Hamilton.
After the press conference, Hollander and Hamilton issued a joint statement saying that Democratic caucus leadership followed all of its rules and afforded Johnson the due process that was required.
“Pursuant to our rules, Councilman Johnson’s opportunity to testify himself, to call witnesses and to examine witnesses would occur at the full Caucus meeting we scheduled for July 13,” read the statement. “Councilman Johnson was informed of that fact in writing last week. We followed our rules and afforded Councilman Johnson the due process the rules contemplated.”
Hollander and Bryant rebutted the claim of Johnson’s attorney that caucus leadership told him the matter would “go away” if he agreed to seek counseling and not run for reelection, stating “at no point did either I or Vice Chair Bryant Hamilton tell Councilman Johnson that any of his voluntary actions would end our investigation or prevent further Caucus or Council actions. That statement is absolutely false and part of a disturbing pattern.”
Their statement concluded: “Our Caucus can now move forward, without Councilman Johnson.”
Thursday morning, the Louisville Democratic Party released a statement that was approved by each of its legislative districts, approving of the action initiated by caucus leadership to censure Johnson and kick him out of the council’s Democratic caucus.
“The Louisville Democratic Party is embarrassed by and will not tolerate Metro Council Representative Daniel Johnson’s continuing misconduct,” read the statement. “We aspire to live our values and no one should be subjected to the behavior reported by Metro Council Representative Jessica Green and Legislative Assistant Erin Hinson. We strongly support and endorse the recommendations of the Democratic Caucus Leaders Cheri Bryant Hamilton and Bill Hollander, including censure and expulsion from the Democratic Caucus. We thank Councilwoman Green and Ms. Hinson for coming forward and speaking out.”
Video by Peter Champelli
Johnson has repeatedly been involved in controversy over the past several years, including being banished from future GLI events because of allegedly being intoxicated and repeatedly harassing a female staffer on a GLI-sponsored trip to Austin, Texas. Several council members have said that Johnson also became intoxicated on a council trip to Frankfort last year and vomited on their bus on the way back. Johnson also ran into trouble in 2014 with bounced checks for his city-funded cellphone and to Action Loan owner Gus Goldsmith.
Below is a copy of the recommendations for Johnson issued by the leadership of the Democratic caucus, and the letter sent by Johnson to the leadership Thursday, announcing his resignation from that group.
This story may be updated.