|Backers Fail To Stop
Ouster Of Johnson
November 22, 1997
WEST COUNTY TIMES
* DESPITE COMMUNITY SUPPORT, RICHMOND COUNCIL VOTES 5-1 TO AFFIRM CANCELLATION OF CITY MANAGER'S CONTRACT
Saturday, November 22,
RICHMOND Despite threats of a recall campaign and a public outpouring of support for City Manager Floyd Johnson, the City Council formalized its decision Friday not to renew the top executive's contract.
The council also took measures to bar City Council members, lobbyists and business interests from having informal contact with applicants to fill Johnson's position. Such contact in the past fueled accusations that backroom dealings influenced the selection of Johnson.
The council's approval of the resolution ousting Johnson, approved on a 5-1 vote without discussion, does not force Johnson to leave his office before his contract expires Jan. 9. But it does appoint three councilmen to "facilitate the transition" from Johnson to in interim city manager, an indication Johnson may be asked to leave sooner.
Richard Griffin, Tom Butt, Nat Bates Donna Powers and Alex Evans voted to oust Johnson. John Marquez voted against them. Three council members who support Johnson, Irma Anderson, Mayor Rosemary Corbin and Lesa McIntosh, were absent.
Acting City Attorney William Bonnell previously advised council members not to comment on Johnson's shortcomings for fear of provoking a lawsuit.
Response to the vote was overwhelmingly negative at Friday's meeting, with much of the opposition brought by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, neighborhood leaders and ministers.
Audience members blasted the council for making its original vote to oust Johnson at 2 a.m. Wednesday, after all but one observer had gone home and television cameras that normally film meetings had been turned off. They complained that the council had violated the state open-meeting law by not notifying the public it might vote on Johnson's future at the meeting.
They accused council members of succumbing to special-interest lobbying. They criticized Griffin for voting against Johnson, though Griffin, when running for re-election this fall, publicly supported Johnson.
"Outside interests won over the democratic process. Integrity was bought. Promises were made. Promises were broken," said George Harris III, who joined four other speakers to threaten a recall.
Several well-known community leaders, including former Councilman Jim McMillan, NAACP President Ken Nelson, Elizabeth Baptist Church pastor J.L. Johnson, Easter Hill United Methodist Church pastor Phil Lawson and Pinole City Councilwoman Maria Alegria expressed similar sentiments.
Altogether, 16 speakers said they opposed the council's decision or the way it was made. One audience member spoke in support of the council.
Marquez, chairman of the meeting, frequently asked audience members to be quiet when they spoke out of turn. Although he forbade speakers from mentioning individual council members in their comments, several audience members ignored that rule. Butt, Powers and Evans, who are white, were accused of being motivated by racism. Floyd Johnson is black. Bates and Griffin, who are black, were denounced for allegedly being dishonest.
None of the five council members responded to the charges during the meeting.
Johnson, who reportedly is visiting his ailing mother in Virginia, was not at the meeting.
When he leaves office, Johnson may be replaced by an acting city manager. If the council has not chosen an acting city manager by the time Johnson leaves, City Attorney Malcolm Hunter will take over for no longer than 10 days.
The council intends to have a new city manager hired by March 1.