Councilman Dan Johnson (D-21) will not be running for office in 2018 in the wake of recent accusations of sexual harassment against him, the Democratic Majority Caucus announced Wednesday.
Councilwoman Jessica Green (D-1) accused Johnson of grabbing her buttocks while they were taking a group photo last week, and an aide to Councilwoman Angela Leet (R-7) said Johnson exposed himself in a parking lot last year.
“From the beginning, Caucus leadership has taken the allegations very seriously and described them as very concerning, while understanding that Councilman Johnson has described the events as accidental,” the caucus memo said. It also outlined Johnson’s consequences.
Johnson maintains that both incidents were accidental.
Even so, Johnson agreed to leave his seat at the end of his term, which is his third term in that office. Johnson has been in public service since 1992 and has also served on the Louisville Board of Aldermen.
Johnson has written personal letters of apology to both of the women involved. His letter to Green stated that “none of this is a laughing matter,” and he agreed to maintain personal boundaries.
Johnson also will seek counseling through Metro’s Employee Assistance Program.
The leadership of the Majority Caucus, Chair Bill Hollander (D-9) and Vice Chair Cheri Bryant Hamilton (D-5), investigated both complaints and spoke with all parties involved on several occasions.
Metro Council President David Yates (D-25) has begun a policy review and has created a work group to address inadequacies in council policy when it comes to workplace matters. The work group is bipartisan with members selected by both the majority and minority leadership.
Majority Caucus Chair Hollander said: “Councilwoman Green has always told us that her only goal in this matter is to ensure that City Hall is a place free from sexual harassment and sexual abuse. Today’s actions will help move us toward that goal. I have appointed Vice Chair Bryant Hamilton, Councilwoman Green and Councilman Pat Mulvihill to the work group President Yates has created. I look forward to the full Council’s action on new policies and procedures.”
The inclusion of the line “none of this is a laughing matter” in the apology letter to Green may reflect the fact that Johnson did not appear to take her allegations seriously. When an article came out in The Courier-Journal about Green’s allegations, Johnson tweeted:
Last fall, Greater Louisville Inc. declared that Johnson was “no longer welcome” at any of their events due to complaints of unprofessional behavior during a GLI-sponsored trip to Austin, Texas. Sources said that Johnson allegedly became intoxicated and repeatedly harassed a young female GLI staffer.
GLI spokeswoman Brotzge-Elder told IL at the time that “inappropriate or unprofessional behavior and comments are never welcome at GLI events. Protecting and respecting our staff’s privacy has been our main concern. GLI took strong and appropriate action when we learned of this specific incident and consider the matter closed as it relates to our organization.”
Several other council members told Insider in the fall that Johnson also behaved in an unprofessional manner last year on a trip to Frankfort and alleged that Johnson became intoxicated while in Frankfort and vomited on the bus on the way back.
On Wednesday afternoon, Councilwoman Angela Leet provided IL with a statement that read, in part:
“Councilman Johnson’s actions in the past week have made it clear that he has a deep issue with respecting the rights of women and showing them respect.
“In my 2 ½ years on the Metro Council I have watched many Metro Council Colleagues roll their eyes and explain away Councilman Johnson’s various questionable behaviors. After the incident involving my legislative assistant and later actions while on a GLI trip to Austin, Texas I began working on changes to the Metro Council’s Policies and Procedures to address concerns raised about remedying sexual harassment by elected officials and personnel at City Hall. This work is complicated and has included meetings with the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office as well as Councilwoman Green.”
According to Leet, Council President Yates was aware of her work, “But instead of working to join my efforts, he hastily announced a work group that he was tasking with doing the work that I have endeavored to accomplish for the past 8 months. His announcement would mean waiting another 6-8 weeks prior to getting a policy to better ensure a safer workplace.”
Leet further stated that Yates didn’t seek input from Republican members of the Metro Council prior to sending out today’s release.
“I also want to make it clear that at no time did my legislative assistant say that what Councilman Johnson did was an accident,” she added, calling the inclusion of her legislative assistant’s name “with a misleading statement” and without her knowledge “insulting” and not aimed at “achieving the goal of a safe work place but instead gaining political cover.”
“Finally I would say that I do not know how anyone would conclude that they feel any safer or more protected today than they were last week. Any statements to suggest otherwise would be false.”
Story updated with additional reporting at 5:45 p.m.