Challenge Legality Of Vote On Ouster
November 21, 1997
WEST COUNTY TIMES
Friday, November 21,
RICHMOND Municipal leaders prepared Thursday for the possibility that City Manager Floyd Johnson, Richmond's top administrator, will file a lawsuit over the City Council's vote not to renew his contract.
City Clerk Eula Barnes gave notice Thursday that a special council meeting will be at 5 p.m. today to discuss Richmond's "significant exposure to litigation."
Acting City Attorney William Bonnell declined to comment about possible litigation. Johnson did not return calls.
But Mayor Rosemary Corbin, a member of the council and a Johnson supporter, said Thursday she believes the vote at Tuesday's meeting to oust Johnson was illegal.
She argued it was improper because the nine-member council announced only that it would conduct a "performance evaluation" of Johnson in closed session. When the meeting convened, council members asked Johnson to leave and, after a break, voted at 2 a.m. Wednesday not to renew his contract when it expires Jan. 9.
Ken Nelson, president of the Richmond branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, also questioned the legality of the vote.
He also criticized it for being announced at 2 a.m., when only one observer was in the council chamber.
Nelson and the Rev. J.L. Johnson of Elizabeth Baptist Church will address the council Friday.
Corbin also criticized scheduling of the public section of the special meeting at 5:30 p.m. today, arguing there is no urgency and community members will find the time inconvenient.
She said she will skip the meeting to keep previous appointments with the League of Conservation Voters and the First Unitarian Church of Berkeley.
Johnson will not be there either, Councilwoman Lesa McIntosh said. Johnson is scheduled to fly to Virginia today to visit his mother, who recently suffered a stroke, McIntosh said.
At the meeting, council members also are scheduled to choose between two resolutions by Councilman Tom Butt that formalize the end of Johnson's tenure. One would put Johnson on paid administrative leave immediately; the other would leave open the question of when Johnson leaves.
Butt voted Wednesday not to renew Johnson's contract. Voting with him were Alex Evans, Donna Powers, Nat Bates and Richard Griffin.
Nelson said the NAACP is working hard to contact community members to attend today's council meeting and express outrage. Councilman John Marquez, who supports Johnson, said he expects heavy protest.
The resolutions by Butt include provisions to guard against informal influence by lobbyists and businesses in the council's choice of the next city manager.
The provisions would disqualify any applicant for the job who comes to Richmond as the guest of a lobbyist or business or who discusses the job or "political philosophies" with a lobbyist or business.
Johnson was criticized for being hosted by Darrell Reese, a lobbyist and political campaigner, during a visit to Richmond as he applied for the city manager's position.
After Johnson began his job, he developed a reputation of independence from Reese. Reese said Wednesday he does not oppose Butt's anti-lobbyists provisions.