Nov 21, 2009

Michelle Rhee, The Fixer Did Damage Control After Sex Charges Against Kevin Johnson

The Story The Wash. Post Won't Report

If you haven't read this already it is a 'must read' Examiner Exclusive by Byron York with Bill Myers contributing to the report. It reads like an episode from Dominick Dunne's TV show Power, Privilege and Justice. It confirms my belief that no 'reign of terror' lasts forever. I'd be interested to hear how you think this drama will play out. The Wash. Post has not covered this story in their newspaper not surprisingly to most of us. The story is only featured in their online blog while all other major newspapers worth their salt across the US are featuring this story as a head liner. I have posted the Examiner story in its entirety as well as links (below) from an article on this same subject by David Lipscomb of The Washington Times newspaper, Mike Debonis of the Washington City Paper, The Hill News, The NY Times, Sacramento news, Sacramento Bee, SCUSD Observer and L.A. Times

Wash. Times link
Wash.City Paper link
The Hill news

Exclusive: Congressional Report: Rhee did 'damage control' after sex charges against fiancee Kevin Johnson

By: Byron York
Chief Political Correspondent
November 20, 2009

A congressional investigation of the volunteer organization AmeriCorps contains charges that D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee handled "damage control" after allegations of sexual misconduct against her now fiancee, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA star and a prominent ally of President Obama, The Washington Examiner learned Friday morning.

The charges are contained in a report prepared by Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, and Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The investigation began after the AmeriCorps inspector general, Gerald Walpin, received reports that Johnson had misused some of the $800,000 in federal AmeriCorps money provided to St. Hope, a non-profit school that Johnson headed for several years.

Walpin was looking into charges that AmeriCorps-paid volunteers ran personal errands for him, washed his car, and took part in political activities.  In the course of investigating those allegations, the congressional report says, Walpin's investigators were told that Johnson had made inappropriate advances toward three young women involved in the St. Hope program -- and that Johnson offered at least one of those young women money to keep quiet.

Johnson's office did not respond to calls for comment Friday morning.

At the time, Rhee was on the board of St. Hope. A former St. Hope employee who reported one of the allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct by Johnson told Walpin's investigators that Rhee "learned of the allegations and played the role of a fixer, doing 'damage control,'" the congressional report says.

The employee told investigators that Rhee told her that "she was making this her number one priority, and she would take care of the situation."  A short time later, the employee learned that the girl who had complained about Johnson had received a visit from Johnson's personal attorney.

The congressional report quotes the girl as saying the attorney "basically asked me to keep quiet," and Johnson offered her $1,000 a month for the duration of her time with St. Hope.  Once investigators learned about that, the report says, they had "reasonable suspicions about potential hush money payments and witness tampering at a federally funded entity."

Rhee did not respond to calls for comment Friday.

Walpin included the allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct, along with evidence of misuse of federal money, in a criminal referral to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Sacr
amento.  The acting U.S. Attorney, Lawrence Brown, reached a settlement with Johnson under which St. Hope was obligated to pay back some of the money, but took no action on the other matters.

The White House fired Walpin on June 10. The sexual misconduct allegations he was investigating have been secret until now.

A White House spokesman said he had not seen the report yet, and declined comment.

In the spring of 2008, Walpin's office received a tip that Johnson had misused AmeriCorps money.  Walpin sent two investigators to Sacramento to check the story out.  They discovered that money had in fact been misused, and also learned of the allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct by Johnson.

In August 2008, at the time Walpin referred the matter to the U.S. Attorney, he also presented the evidence of misuse of federal money to officials at the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that oversees AmeriCorps.  In September 2008, those officials barred Johnson from receiving any more federal money.

All this was happening as Johnson was running for mayor of Sacramento, a race he won in November 2008.  Johnson's suspension from receiving federal money became a hot issue in early 2009 after Congress passed the $787 billion stimulus bill.  Many people in Sacramento worried that the city would not be able to get its share of that money if the mayor was banned from receiving federal dollars.

Amid that atmosphere of anxiety, in April of this year, the U.S. Attorney's office announced a deal under which St. Hope would pay back about half of the money it received from AmeriCorps and, in return, Johnson would no longer be banned from receiving federal money.  Brown released a statement saying the settlement "removes any cloud whether the City of Sacramento will be prevented from receiving much-needed federal stimulus funds."

The deal was made by Brown and top officials at the Corporation for National and Community Service -- Walpin was cut out of the process.  He strongly disagreed with the arrangement, suspecting that it came about more for political reasons than prosecutorial ones.  The new report takes his side, saying Brown's "motivation to reach a settlement was not to protect the financial interests of the United States, but rather to remove Johnson from the suspended parties list in order to ensure Sacramento's eligibility to receive stimulus funds."  Neither Brown nor the U.S. Attorney's office cooperated with the Grassley/Issa investigation.

After the settlement, Walpin wanted to continue probing the St. Hope affair, particularly a new allegation that St. Hope employees might have destroyed evidence. Walpin made his case to the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service at a meeting on May 20.  He also strongly criticized the board for making what he felt was a bad settlement and for failing to exercise sufficient oversight of the matter.

At one point in the meeting, which all sides describe as contentious, Walpin apparently became confused when asked a question.  Accounts differ; some who were in the room said Walpin seemed disoriented and out of it, while others said he seemed to simply lose his place for a moment.  Whatever the case, after the heated discussion of the St. Hope matter, Corporation board chairman Alan Solomont, a major Democratic donor and Obama supporter, took the unusual step of going to the White House to report the events of the just-concluded meeting and recommend that Walpin be fired.

After a cursory investigation, the White House Counsel's Office called Walpin on June 10 and told him that he had one hour to either resign or be fired.  Walpin declined to resign and was fired.  The firing was an apparent violation of a law requiring the president to give 30 days'  notice to Congress before dismissing an inspector general.  Only later did the White House inform Congress.  When lawmakers asked for an explanation of Walpin's firing, the White House said he was dismissed because he had been "confused, disoriented, unable to answer questions and exhibited other behavior that led the board to question his capacity to serve."

The new report strongly suggests that Walpin was in fact fired because of the dispute over St. Hope and concludes that the White House "orchestrated an after-the-fact smear campaign to justify" Walpin's dismissal.

The report says the allegations of sexual misconduct and a cover-up "provide important context for Walpin's insistence that the St. Hope matter should not have been settled without further inquiry."  In light of those allegations, the report says, complaints that Walpin was being too aggressive seem unfounded.  "The content of the referral tends to undermine any notion that the [inspector general's] investigation was driven by inappropriate motives on the part of Walpin," the report says.  "Rather, it appears to have been driven by non-political, career investigators simply following the facts."

There seems little doubt that Johnson's alleged conduct contributed to a sometimes troubled atmosphere at St. Hope.  In the criminal referral, Walpin wrote that the allegations "seriously impact on both the security of young [volunteers] placed in the care of [St. Hope] and, if such incidents occur, the ability of AmeriCorps to continue to attract volunteers."  The referral, which Grassley and Issa's investigators have released in its entirety along with the new report, contains the following description of one of the incidents, a description which uses the AmeriCorps terminology of referring to young volunteers as "Members."

Our investigation disclosed evidence of sexual misconduct towards young female Members by Mr. Johnson.  One Member reported that, in the February/March 2007 time frame, she was entering grades in the [school's] database system per Mr. Johnson's instructions at the St. Hope office at night, purportedly as part of her AmeriCorps service.  [The girl] contacted Mr. Johnson to inform him that she had completed the grades and wanted him to review them. 

About 11:00 p.m., Mr. Johnson arrived at St. Hope and instructed [the girl] to gather her things and come with him.  Mr. Johnson drove to [the girl's] apartment, which is managed by St. Hope Development and houses its AmeriCorps Members, purportedly so that they could review the students' grades.  While in [the girl's] apartment, in which another AmeriCorps Member had a separate bedroom, Mr. Johnson laid down on [the girl's] bed.  [The girl] sat on the edge of the bed to show him the grades, at which time Mr. Johnson "laid down behind me cupping his body around mine like the letter C.  After about 2-3 minutes or so, I felt his hand on my left side where my hip bone is." 

Further, although not detailed in her written statement, [the girl] during the interview demonstrated while explaining that Mr. Johnson's hand went under her untucked shirt and moved until his hand was on her hip.  [The girl] immediately got up and stated she was done and left the room.  When she returned, Mr. Johnson was still in her bed, but now apparently sleeping.  Only after [the girl] sought to take a blanket to sleep elsewhere did Mr. Johnson exit to the living room of the apartment.  [The girl] related that Mr. Johnson slept on the couch in her apartment living room that night and subsequently left the apartment at approximately 6 a.m. the next day.
The young woman told investigators that after she "got the courage" to tell her supervisors, she was visited by Johnson's lawyer, who, the girl said, "basically asked me to keep quiet."  Later, the girl said, Johnson himself "offered to give me $1,000 a month until the end of the program." Johnson, the girl said, said the arrangement would be confidential -- "between him and I."

Walpin is embroiled in a lawsuit against the Corporation for National and Community Service in which he is seeking to get his old job back. There have been arguments and counter-arguments filed in the case, but a final decision is likely many months away.

Examiner reporter Bill Myers contributed to this report

Posted by the Washington Teacher featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence, story courtesy of the Examiner.


Anonymous said...

This article was hidden in the education section of the Washington Post online section.

Report: Rhee spoke to feds on Johnson's behalf
D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee had several conversations last year with a federal inspector general investigating Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson for alleged financial misconduct and inappropriate behavior with female students at a charter school he operated, The Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

The paper said Rhee, who once served on the board of the St. Hope school, spoke on behalf of Johnson-- whom she is now engaged to-- calling him "a good guy."

Rhee's previously undisclosed involvement in the investigation is described in a 62-page congressional report on the White House's firing earlier this year of Gerald Walpin, the inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service. The report is scheduled to be released today by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif) and Sen Charles E.Grassley (R-Iowa).

Johnson has not been charged with any crimes. Republicans contend that Walpin's firing was politically motivated because Johnson, a former NBA star with the Phoenix Suns, was a high-profile supporter of President Obama. Administration officials said the corporation board had lost confidence in Walpin, 78, who appeared confused and disoriented at a May board meeting. The paper said Walpin is receiving free legal help from a conservative public relations firm associated with the "swift boat" ads that attacked Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry in the 2004 campaign.

The report includes a 30-page criminal referral Walpin prepared for the U.S. attorney in Sacramento in August 2008. It described three allegations of inappropriate actions on Johnson's part involving a female minor, who reported being fondled, and two young volunteers, who reported that Johnson went to their apartment and climbed into bed with one of them. Federal and local officials declined to prosecute on the basis of the information in the referral
According to The Times, Rhee met with St. Hope teacher Jacqueline Wong-Hernandez after hearing the allegations and promised to "take care of the situation." Wong-Hernandez said she was later called to a meeting with Johnson and one of the alleged victims and was told by Johnson that he and the 18-year-old girl had spoken privately and "everything was OK between them." Wong-Hernandez left St. Hope in June 2007, telling Rhee that the handling of the incident was a major reason.

Phone and e-mail messages to Rhee's office had not been returned at midday.

Walpin began the probe in 2008, centered on what happened to $848,000 in grants and payments to Johnson's school, St. Hope, from AmeriCorps, the national service organization overseen by the corporation.

Bill Turque
By Bill Turque | November 20, 2009; 11:18 AM ET | Category: Bill Turque , Education

Is this just wonderful! MR's husband should seek sole custody of his daughters behind this mess.

What happened to credibility?

I_educ8 said...

So, the media darling, who never misses a photo op or chance to speak to the public, declined to comment on this matter? Your silence on this issue speaks volumes, Michelle Rhee. Is your fiance's behavior an example of your oft-repeated babble about doing what's "in the best interest of kids?" Methinks you speak with forked tongue and this scandal will utlimately be your undoing.

Sharon B. said...

MY, MY, MY.. This explains some of MR's behavior in terms of $$$$. She has been a crook for a long time it seems. Why does DC always end up with "REJECTS"?

lorijab said...

Writing in solidarity from Sacramento. It breaks my heart that Washington DC teachers, parents and students have been so utterly victimized by the real-life horror show that is Michelle Rhee and Kevin Johnson.

Signs are here at home that the greasing of Johnson by deep-pocket land developers, sycophantic public officials and cheap celebrity groupies may finally be coming to an end--although one never knows in a political culture as debased as ours.

What is certain, is that none of this would have come out if it hadn't been for dogged resistance from a relatively few courageous individuals in both DC and Sac--you, Candy, being one of the most persistent--who have cried foul from the first days these two appeared on the scene.

For your reading pleasure, I'm offering this list from a local education watchdog of KJ/St. Hope folks who have resigned or been dismissed over the past year in relation to these allegations:

(Check out for links to stories about each)

June, 2008 – Kevin Johnson resigns as CEO of St. Hope and is elected Mayor of Sacramento in November 2009

February, 2009 – Sarah Z’Berg, Johnson’s administrative assistant, resigns (after only a few months) to take a job at the Capitol. Johnson’s special assistant, Chris Young, resigns to take a job in Obama administration

March, 2009 – Bernard Bowler, St. Hope Board member, resigns

Lori Mills, St. Hope Board member, resigns

Sam Oki, St. Hope Board member, refuses comment on resignations/investigation involving St. Hope and eventually resigns

April, 2009 – Robert Trigg, St. Hope Board member, resigns

May, 2009 – Rick Maya, executive director of St. Hope, resigns

June, 2009 – Inspector General Gerald Walpin is dismissed

August, 2009 – Kim Curry-Evans, Director of 40 Acres Art gallery, resigns

A Sacramento Parent said...

Sexual predator alert ! DC watch out for your teenage girls. Kevin Johnson traveled to the East Cost this weekend. Johnson is a 40 something, engaged black male ISO (in search of) 13-17 year old teenage girls.

Anonymous said...

Did Rhee commit a class B misdeameanor? As a Board Member she is obligated to report allegations of abuse and is obligated to not provide the information to the person alleged to have committed the abuse.

Anonymous said...

Rhee would have fired teachers and principals for less than what she has been accused of.

The Wash. Teacher responds to Critical Thinker said...

Response to Critical Thinker:

Thanks for your comment (below) Just as you saw the quote you referenced, readers can view the quote by clicking on the link. This quote of course is the opinion of Ms. Calloway. This is what I would expect her to say as Rhee's spokesperson.

I encourage all to read as many sources as possible to uncover this developing story in its entirety.

Comment posted by Critical Thinker:
"The report does not accuse Ms. Rhee, who was on the board of the school, of any wrongdoing, and her spokeswoman, Jennifer Calloway, said it “rehashes old allegations that have long since been dismissed and deemed meritless.”

This is a quote from the New York Times article you linked to in your post. I think the readers deserve to see it.

Kings said...

lorijab - interesting about all the resignations, but can you put them into context for us? What do you think it means?

What percentage of the board resigned? What do the people who resigned have in common? These are things people in Sacramento may understand, but we here in DC do not.

Kings said...

yes, Critical thinker,please be careful to credit Ms. Rhee's spokesperson with that quote, not the NY times. That would be misleading and not worthy of a critical thinker.

Sheila H. Gill said...

GOD doesn't like UGLY, Ms. Rhee.

U - Understand this clearly, "What
Goes Around, Comes Around!"
Rhee are "U" next to be fired?

G - Get to steppin' and start
packin'. It's time to say,
"Good Bye."

L - Love (KJ), Hate (Veteran
Educators) and War (Rhee, Fenty
& DC City Council). At the end of
the day, "Do you think it was
worth manufacturing a deficit
budget or riffing educators?"

Y - Your fiance, KJ, is a perfect
match for "U."

Congratulations & Good Riddance

Kudos to the DC Washington Examiner!

Anonymous said...

story is buried in the back of the WAPO on the wire..

Anonymous said...

the story is now on yahoo news, nytimes, washington times, la times but not the washpost. interesting.

The Perimeter Primate said...

The local blog in Sacramento about school issues is the SCUSD Observer:

The current post is the following list of resignations:

Below is a very partial list of individuals, connected to Kevin Johnson, who have resigned from their posts or been dismissed over the course of the current year.

June, 2008 – Kevin Johnson resigns as CEO of St. Hope and is elected Mayor of Sacramento in November 2009

February, 2009 – Sarah Z’Berg, Johnson’s administrative assistant, resigns (after only a few months) to take a job at the Capitol. Johnson’s special assistant, Chris Young, resigns to take a job in Obama administration

March, 2009 – Bernard Bowler, St. Hope Board member, resigns
Lori Mills, St. Hope Board member, resigns
Sam Oki, St. Hope Board member, refuses comment on resignations/investigation involving St. Hope and eventually resigns

April, 2009 – Robert Trigg, St. Hope Board member, resigns

May, 2009 – Rick Maya, executive director of St. Hope, resigns

June, 2009 – Inspector General Gerald Walpin is dismissed

August, 2009 – Kim Curry-Evans, Director of 40 Acres Art gallery, resigns

The Perimeter Primate said...

"Corporation [for National and Community Service] board chairman Alan Solomont, a major Democratic donor and Obama supporter, took the unusual step of going to the White House to report the events of the just-concluded meeting and recommend that Walpin be fired."

Just for fun, Google these two names together:

"Eli Broad" "Alan Solomont"

According to a Republican summary @

"Alan Solomont is a prominent Democrat fundraiser with an extraordinary level of access to the White House. Solomont spoke with Eisen in the White House parking lot mere hours after hearing Walpin’s objections to the settlement of the St. HOPE matter, sharing his concern that Walpin was no longer fit for his job based on his inability to answer questions during that day’s Board meeting.

Eisen responded to Solomont’s request for a review of his agency’s IG. Walpin was fired shortly thereafter."

The money folks and the politicians are engaged in a perfect symbiosis. They swirl in tight circles together and it is most certain that many are quite good friends. Their primary interest is not in the children of the masses, but in the constant scheming for how to best accumulate and deploy more and more personal power.

Critical Thinker said...

"The report does not accuse Ms. Rhee, who was on the board of the school, of any wrongdoing."

The above quote is from the New York Times, NOT Rhee's spokesperson. Go back and read it again, Kings and Washington Teacher.

Rhee is not the target here. The target is anyone related to the Obama presidency. Don't you see that this report is being released by the republicans?

I'm not defending Rhee or opposing her on this point. This republican smear campaign against Americorps has nothing to do with her. You all are just so blinded by hate for her that you cannot see that.

It might make a juicy story for the conservative media, but it simply has nothing to do with Rhee.

Anonymous said...

Candi, can you tell us what it means that ownership of your blog has been transferred? Who owns it?