AmeriCorps` Favorite Scandal-Plagued Mayor—Former NBA star Kevin Johnson
Democratic politician who was banned from receiving
federal aid three years ago over fraud charges is once
again raking in government funds from the very same
program he abused. It pays to be a FOTO—Friend of the
subsidized con artist is Sacramento mayor and former NBA
star Kevin Johnson. He donated the maximum individual
amount to Obama for America, campaigned across the
country for Obama in 2008, and bragged to California
media during his mayoral run about his friendship and
access to both Barack and Michelle Obama. The Obama
administration`s Corporation for National and Community
Service (CNCS) recently bestowed Johnson`s city with an
AmeriCorps grant worth more than $650,000.
The money will
flow into Sacramento`s
"Get Fit Now!
Initiative," which will hire 124 AmeriCorps members
"to teach fitness
and nutrition education to children and offer adult
fitness classes for their parents. They will also set up
school-based gardens where children will learn how to
grow fresh vegetables."
That`s a lot of
fertilizer-shovelers employed in the name of
If the award smells funny, it should. For Johnson,
AmeriCorps has indeed been all about
service—self-service, that is.
In 2008, the
independent Inspector General overseeing AmeriCorps,
Gerald Walpin, concluded that Johnson and aide Dana
Gonzalez had squandered hundreds of thousands of a
nearly million-dollar grant earmarked for his nonprofit
youth organization, St. HOPE. Based on Walpin`s
investigation, AmeriCorps` parent organization (the
aforementioned CNCS) suspended Johnson and Gonzalez`s
access to federal funds. Here`s a refresher on their
fraud and abuse that led to the ban:
AmeriCorps members to
for St. HOPE Academy."
AmeriCorps members for political activities in
connection with the
"Sacramento Board of Education election."
Assigning grant-funded AmeriCorps members to perform
services for Johnson such as
"driving (him) to personal appointments, washing (his) car, and running
Improperly using AmeriCorps "members to
perform non-AmeriCorps clerical and other services"
outside the scope of the grant and therefore were
"the benefit of
St. HOPE." [St. HOPE Report
get jail time. Instead, the Democratic U.S. Attorney in
Sacramento cut a cozy settlement deal so Johnson could
avoid criminal prosecution. The deal also allowed
Johnson to repay just a fraction of the money he
siphoned from AmeriCorps coffers for personal gain—and
it freed Johnson to receive federal Obama stimulus money
for Sacramento. (My most recent check of the
Recovery.gov website shows the city has taken in at
least $32 million in stimulus cash.)
In keeping with
this administration`s brutal war on whistleblowers,
Walpin was unceremoniously fired and smeared by Team
Obama. The White House baselessly questioned the veteran
watchdog`s mental health and accused him of political
interference. The first lady then installed her former
chief of staff, Jackie Norris, in AmeriCorps` top
management to ensure—in Mrs. Obama`s own words—that they
remained the program`s
troubling, Johnson continues to reap government tax
dollars for youth programs while he remains dogged by
questions about his predatory behavior with teenage
girls. A little-noticed section of the
joint November 2009 report by GOP Sen. Charles
Grassley and GOP Rep. Darrell Issa on Walpin`s firing
revealed that the AmeriCorps inspector general`s
"became aware of allegations of inappropriate contact
between Johnson and three female St. HOPE students."
Their stories mirror a similar incident involving
Johnson (then 29 and playing for the Phoenix Suns) and a
16-year-old girl dating back to 1995.
attorney, Kevin Hiestand, approached at least one of the
St. HOPE students describing himself only as
"`a friend of
me to keep quiet," according to the student. She had
complained to St. HOPE officials that Johnson groped her
sexually after instructing her to grade papers with him
in her apartment. The report also highlighted what
clearly looks like a hush-money and witness-tampering
attempt: "According to her interview with OIG investigators, about one week
later, Kevin Johnson offered her $1,000 a month until
the end of the program, which she refused to accept."
Erik Jones, a
teacher at St. HOPE, reported to the police that one of
his students told him Johnson
"started massaging her shoulders and then reached over and touched her
breasts." Jones quit his job in protest over the
seeming cover-up of Johnson`s harassment and wrote in
his resignation letter that
"St. HOPE sought
to intimidate the student through an illegal
interrogation and even had the audacity to ask me to
change my story."
recounted for investigators how Johnson
cheek, brushed up against her" and touched her thigh
on various occasions—as well as flipping up her skirt on
a St. HOPE-sponsored trip to Harlem. She didn`t report
the incidents to AmeriCorps officials at the time
"feared she would be terminated."
Another St. HOPE
official, Jacqueline Wong-Hernandez, also left Johnson`s
nonprofit over the whitewash. Michelle Rhee, Johnson`s
fiancee and former D.C. schools chief, was a St. HOPE
board member at the time. The Grassley-Issa report
noted, "According to Wong-Hernandez, Rhee learned of the allegations and played
the role of a fixer, doing `damage control`" and
vouching for Johnson`s character.
Rhee told Walpin. Taxpayers—and especially parents of
teenage girls and AmeriCorps workers in Sacramento
schools—should beg to differ.
CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
is the author of
Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists,
Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our
for Peter Brimelow`s review. Click
for Michelle Malkin`s website. Michelle Malkin
is also author of
Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild
and the just-released
Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies.