Hear Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson's phone call to Phoenix teenager in 1996
A Los Angeles-based organization and local activists want Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson to resign in light of resurfaced allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
The Courage Campaign, a group tied to teachers unions that uses an online mailing list to advocate for liberal causes, released a video Thursday featuring television news reports and police recordings on the allegations against Johnson. The video does not include new allegations and as of Thursday afternoon had been viewed 1,600 times on Facebook. Another 122 had seen it on YouTube.
The Courage Campaign launched the video with a new group called the Sacramento Collective for Women’s Rights. The group of about a dozen women formed last month after a 1996 police video surfaced showing a teenage Phoenix girl accusing Johnson of molestation, said Michelle Pariset, a coalition member.
The video’s release was coordinated with an online petition seeking Johnson’s resignation. Laura Leavitt, a campaign manager for the Courage Campaign, said more than 9,000 people had signed the petition nationwide since the group launched it last month. It’s unclear how many of those signers live in Sacramento.
Johnson last month said he will not seek a third term next year. He has said past allegations against him of sexual misconduct did not play a role in his decision.
Ben Sosenko, the mayor’s spokesman, said Johnson will not resign before the end of his term and that the Courage Campaign’s effort “hasn’t gained any traction.”
“The mayor is focused on creating jobs and moving the city forward,” Sosenko said. “Piling on by an extreme, Santa Monica-based group desperately trying to build its email list with a low-budget video based on old allegations … will not change that.”
Leavitt said the Courage Campaign had launched the campaign because it is “especially interested in California politics and holding California politicians accountable.”
“It’s unacceptable for people in power with a long history of allegations to stay in power,” she said.
Courage Campaign’s political issues committee has raised just over $100,000 since 2013, according to the secretary of state’s website. Of that, $51,000 came from the California Federation of Teachers. The California Teachers Association is listed as a partner on the Courage Campaign’s website, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, the California Nurses Association and Planned Parenthood, among other groups.
Teachers unions in Sacramento and in California have battled Johnson, an advocate for charter schools. Johnson’s St. Hope organization operates Sacramento High School as a charter employing nonunion teachers.
Last month, the website Deadspin posted the 1996 police video. Last week, The Sacramento Bee obtained an audio recording of Johnson and his accuser in a conversation recorded by police. Johnson was not charged in the case.
Snippets of the video and audio recordings were included in the Courage Campaign video.
Johnson was accused by a Sacramento City Hall staffer of sexual harassment earlier this year. The allegations were not substantiated by the city attorney or an outside law firm.
He was also the subject of harassment claims that became public during his first run for mayor in 2008. In 2007, Sacramento police investigated a Sacramento High School teacher’s report that a 17-year-old girl told him Johnson had fondled her, but police found “no merit” in the case. The teacher also alleged that Johnson tried to engage in inappropriate contact with an AmeriCorps volunteer, but police did not investigate that claim because the woman was an adult.
Mike Madrid, a political consultant who was involved in an independent campaign to defeat Johnson during the 2008 election, questioned the timing of the Courage Campaign’s video.
“Resignation is a very serious thing and where were they eight years ago, six or four?” he said. “He’s not running again, there’s already a robust campaign (for mayor) going on, I don’t know how it serves the city to push for it now. Eight years ago, seven years ago, that’s completely legit. Now? It’s peculiar.”
The Courage Campaign has a long list of issues on its website and relies on an email list it says has 1 million members to push its work and ask for donations. It is seeking contributions to support a lawsuit against Nestlé for bottling California water and is asking for online signatures in campaigns to support the use of rooftop solar panels and tougher restrictions on gun sales.