Story updated at 6 p.m. with additional comments.
Greater Louisville Inc. has banned Metro Councilman Dan Johnson, D-21, from all future events, which sources tell IL is due to alleged unprofessional behavior during a GLI-sponsored trip to Austin, Texas last month.
GLI spokeswoman Alison Brotzge-Elder declined to reveal Johnson’s specific behavior that led to the ban, though she told IL “it’s a private matter that we’ve fully dealt with through internal channels, and Dan Johnson is no longer welcome at GLI events.”
Asked for the councilman’s response to the ban, Democratic caucus spokesman Tony Hyatt sent IL a statement from Johnson saying “I have not talked to GLI about any situation involving their organization, so there is nothing to comment on.”
However, several sources close to the matter tell IL that Johnson was banned from future chamber of commerce events due to unprofessional behavior exhibited during the GLI-sponsored trip to Austin in September. These sources say Johnson allegedly became intoxicated and repeatedly harassed a young female GLI staffer.
Several other council members tell IL that Johnson also behaved unprofessionally earlier this year on a trip to Frankfort, during which council members rented a bus to travel to the Capitol while the General Assembly was in session. The council members — who represent both political parties — allege Johnson became intoxicated while in Frankfort and vomited on the bus on the way back.
Neither Johnson nor council president David Yates immediately responded to questions sent by IL to Hyatt asking to confirm both alleged incidents.
WHAS first reported the GLI ban on Tuesday night, and several council members told The Courier-Journal Wednesday that Yates has been informed of why Johnson was banned and should share that information with them.
Johnson has served on Metro Council and the previous Board of Alderman for over two decades, representing several south Louisville neighborhoods including Iroquois, Beechmont and Kenwood; he has two years left in his current term. He ran for state House this year and was handily defeated in the Democratic primary by his opponent McKenzie Cantrell, but he also has expressed interest in running for mayor of Louisville in 2018.
On Wednesday evening, Johnson, Yates and Greater Louisville Inc. each released additional comments in response to media reports on Johnson being banned from future GLI events.
“It is certainly not in my character to be offensive, so I do apologize if I came across that way in Austin,” said Johnson in his statement. “GLI has not contacted me personally about any incident during the Austin trip. At the time, (I) was not aware that my words were offensive to anyone. I wish someone had brought this to my attention a month ago so I could have apologized. I will honor GLI’s request so now that this has been settled, it’s time for all of us to move forward.”
Councilman Yates said in his statement that he was contacted by a GLI employee a few weeks ago and told that “an individual was offended by a statement or statements that Councilman Johnson made one evening in a social setting in Austin,” but he also was informed that this individual “did not want their name nor the issue made public.”
“Although as President of the Louisville Metro Council I do not have the authority to restrict or dictate Councilman Johnson’s private conduct or activities, I agreed to convey to Councilman Johnson that he was no longer welcome at GLI events,” stated Yates. “Although Councilman Johnson maintained that he did not believe that his words warranted such action he agreed to avoid any and all future GLI functions. Neither GLI nor the individual has requested any further action from myself or the Metro Council, but has adamantly requested that this issue remain private.”
GLI spokeswoman Brotzge-Elder restated that Johnson is no longer welcome at GLI events, as “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.”