He may be a Democrat. He may have just won re-election. But Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson apparently still has a long way to go to impress the local Democratic Party.
In the latest sign of how fractured that relationship remains, the Democratic Party of Sacramento County has urged city officials to investigate the use of City Hall resources by Johnson's nonprofit organizations.
Party chair Kerri Asbury told City Manager John Shirey in a letter last week that "there appears to be an illegal gift of public funds to nonprofits and/or individuals related to office space at and use of City Hall."
Asbury was referring to the mayor's various nonprofits that handle initiatives ranging from creating a plan for a downtown sports arena to promoting the region's arts scene. Officials with those organizations are often seen in the mayor's office space on City Hall's third floor.
However, none of the paid staff for those organizations has a permanent office in City Hall, said Joaquin McPeek, the mayor's spokesman.
According to McPeek, Johnson's arena and clean tech initiatives rent space on I Street near the downtown railyard; his education initiative is housed in the same office as Students First, the education advocacy organization run by Johnson's wife, Michelle Rhee; and staff with the mayor's homeless and arts initiatives are also off-site.
Many of the dozen or so interns who worked for the mayor's office this year were assigned to the mayor's initiatives. Those interns worked out of City Hall.
Asbury wrote that if the city manager's office finds "that these people and/or organizations are illegally occupying space at City Hall and using City resources, I request that you perform an accounting so that those organizations may be assessed appropriate charges for the use of City property."
City spokeswoman Amy Williams said, "This request is being reviewed."
Regardless of whether the request goes anywhere, Asbury's call for an investigation shows political differences remain between the county's Democratic leadership and one of the region's most high-profile Democrats.
Johnson's campaign spokesman, Steve Maviglio, dismissed the call for an investigation as misguided.
"The last time I looked, Sacramento Democrats elected party leaders to fight Republicans," he said. "Ms. Asbury would be best served directing the energy from her unhealthy obsession with attacking our Democratic mayor, college interns and community volunteers toward re-electing President Obama and campaigning for the Democratic ticket."
Leaders in the city's Democratic organizations have long disliked Johnson for reasons that predate his term as mayor. Most notably, many remain upset about the city school district's decision nearly a decade ago to grant control of Sacramento High School to Johnson's nonprofit St. HOPE, which reopened the campus as a charter school with nonunion teachers.
Johnson was sent a copy of Asbury's letter as he was representing the Democratic mayors of the U.S. Conference of Mayors at the Democratic National Committee's platform drafting committee meeting in Minneapolis. That's the event where leaders of the national Democratic Party gather to discuss the party's political platform.
Maviglio also passed along a note showing that Johnson will be the featured guest at a fundraiser for President Barack Obama this week in San Francisco.