2015-10-21 by Call Me Sunshine
EDITORIAL: Below, you’ll read how Rick Jennings, a member of the Sacramento City Council says of an alleged underage sex assault victim’s sworn statement on video, “These are minor distractions.” Sacramento needs to take a good hard look at him as well. Regardless of whose side you’re on, there are proper ways for professionals to discuss the situation in media and that was not one of them.
Whether these allegations against Kevin Johnson are true or not hopefully will come to light with this new evidence, but one thing we do know now without a doubt. . . this guy Rick Jennings is a real douchebag!
By ADAM NAGOURNEY OCT. 21, 2015
Mayor Kevin Johnson after the Sacramento Kings beat the Utah Jazz in Sacramento in 2012. Credit Steve Yeater/Associated Press
SACRAMENTO — It should have been a high point in a career of high points: the premiere of a documentary chronicling how Kevin Johnson — the former N.B.A. All Star who, as mayor, helped rejuvenate this once-ailing capital city — kept the Sacramento Kings from leaving for Seattle with a gleaming new basketball arena.
But hours before the premiere last week, the ESPN network, which produced the documentary, “Down in the Valley,” announced it would delay indefinitely the national release of the film. The network cited the re-emergence of an issue that has shadowed Mr. Johnson since his first campaign in 2008: a claim by a woman that he sexually abused her 20 years ago, when she was 16 and he played for the Phoenix Suns.
On Tuesday night, Mr. Johnson, a Democrat, announced that he would not seek a third term next year, saying, “The city is headed in the right direction and is ready to embrace the exciting changes ahead.” No mayor in this city has ever served three terms.
Mr. Johnson has repeatedly denied the accusation and made no mention of it in his statement. In an interview on Friday, he asserted that the case was being dredged up by his opponents — including the teachers’ union, with which he has battled over the years — to hurt him politically.
“There are no truth to the allegations,” he said. “If you go back 20 years ago, they were investigated. Law enforcement obviously didn’t feel there was merit there. For me, I’ve just tried to move on and go forward.”
The Phoenix Police Department investigated the claim but closed the case without filing charges. Mr. Johnson entered a draft settlement that included a $230,000 payment to his accuser. The mayor declined to comment when asked why, if the charges were unfounded, he had agreed to make a payout.
What is different this time is a videotape of a police interview in which the girl, speaking in a calm voice, describes in disconcerting detail what she said Mr. Johnson did to her, including fondling and undressing her. The release of the video, posted on Deadspin, a website devoted to sports news, put a young and vulnerable voice to claims that until now had been only a detached account found in court filings.
“People have so desperately wanted to believe in him that they’ve given him a pass on a lot of things, and I think that has worked out generally to the city’s advantage,” Steve Hansen, a Democratic City Council member and critic of Mr. Johnson’s, said before the announcement. “The wall of not knowing how to deal with his problems, but choosing to ignore the failures in hopes of the promise, has begun to collapse. Once you saw the video and read the story, it was hard to pretend it never happened.”
Mr. Johnson, 49, has long been a polarizing force in this city.
For his admirers, he is the vibrant face of a new Sacramento — epitomized by the $500 million arena going up on J Street, surrounded by a burst of construction inspired by the project. He is a former president of the United States Conference of Mayors and a regular guest of President Obama at the White House. He is married to Michelle Rhee, the high-profile school superintendent who, like Mr. Johnson, has a history of battling teachers’ unions.
He can barely walk from City Hall to a favorite hangout a block away, the Grange Restaurant and Bar, without getting stopped with a request for a photograph.
“These are minor distractions,” Rick Jennings, a member of the City Council, said of the allegation. “They are not in any way going to keep Sacramento from going forward. The people I’ve talked to don’t think it’s significant. They are looking at a 20-year-old issue versus what’s being done here now in Sacramento and what he’s done to make Sacramento a better place.”
For others, the videotape has only reinforced their aversion to this mayor. “This has been an ongoing issue in Sacramento,” said Kerri Asbury, who is the city’s Democratic leader and a longtime critic of Mr. Johnson’s. “As a woman, as a teacher and an aunt to teenage girls, it’s just disgusting and horrifying the allegations that are out there.”
“Sacramento is getting the wrong kind of attention,” said Ms. Asbury, a special-education teacher. “I love my city. I would like to see us in the news for something other than a political scandal.”
Although Mr. Johnson argued last week that the accusation had not hurt him with voters, officials in both parties said the video would have made it hard for him to win a third term. After ESPN announced it was shelving the documentary, Ms. Asbury urged Mr. Johnson not to seek re-election.
The video came at a time of heightened scrutiny of the kind of behavior that once might have been disregarded, as other figures in American public life have been discredited by accusations of sexual misconduct.
As it was, a former City Hall worker this year accused Mr. Johnson of sexual harassment. While the claim was dismissed, the mayor was told by city lawyers to “refrain from hugging or touching anyone,” according to The Sacramento Bee. Mr. Johnson, who denied the city worker’s claim, said in the interview that he had voluntarily undergone sexual harassment training, along with other City Hall officials.
Mike Madrid, a Republican political consultant who directed an independent advertising campaign against Mr. Johnson in 2008 that invoked the sexual misconduct accusation, said on Monday that if the videotape had been released during that campaign, “the race absolutely would have turned out differently.”
Mr. Johnson, in a news conference on Wednesday, said the accusation was not a factor in his deciding not to run. He said he had long been leaning against seeking a third term. “It had nothing to do with my decision,” he said, adding, “I would never have run if those allegations concerned me.”
The mayor, who has been mentioned as a potential candidate for statewide office, said he had no desire to run for any other position.
Mr. Johnson suggested that the attacks were being orchestrated by political opponents, starting with the teachers’ unions. Before he took office, a nonprofit organization he created wrestled control of the Sacramento High School and turned it into a charter school, ousting the unionized teaching staff.
“I ended up turning the high school I went to into a charter high school,” he said in the interview before his announcement. “And as a result, I probably made a lot of enemies in the teachers’ union. California and Sacramento are ground zero when it comes to one of the strongest special interest groups in the country. I did what I thought was right for kids. I created problems and enemies back then, and they have been enemies for life.”
The mayor said he realized this issue would come up when he considered running for office in 2008, eight years after he retired from professional basketball. “It was very clear to me that when I had to make a decision on whether I was going to run for mayor or not, that the allegations would resurface,” he said. “I didn’t have any inkling that they would dog me throughout my political career, but that’s the reality of it.”
The accuser, identified by Deadspin as Mandi Koba, recounted the episode in an interview after years of keeping a low profile. Deadspin said Ms. Koba was now the mother of three children, and quoted her as saying she was speaking up because “I just felt like I wasn’t doing anything but protecting him.”
Ms. Koba, who now works as an advocate for sex abuse victims, did not respond to a request for an interview sent through her website.
Mr. Johnson said he had not seen the video. “I can only say — and I’m not trying to be a broken record — this is 20 years ago,” he said. “An unauthorized video gets reviewed, it drums it all up again. We don’t shy away, we deal with it, and then we have to get back to work.”
Steven Maviglio, Mr. Johnson’s political adviser, said that the video had not dissuaded the mayor from running, and that he had little doubt he would have won re-election.
“He put this city on the map,” Mr. Maviglio said. “If this was proven true or there was an indictment, this might be different story. This is Sacramento. We have drunk legislators being arrested all the time. People are like, ‘Whatever.’ ”