Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson Fined $37,000 For Ethics Violation Over Failure To Report Donations

Mayor Kevin Johnson attends a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, April 27, 2012. Citing irreconcilable difference
Mayor Kevin Johnson attends a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, April 27, 2012. Citing irreconcilable differences, Johnson said that a new arena deal between the city and the Maloof family, owners of the Sacramento Kings, is dead. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has been fined $37,500 for failing to report over $3.5 million in donations he solicited for charity organizations.

The Associated Press reports the Fair Political Practices Commission said on Monday that it had identified 25 cases in which Johnson failed to file timely reports on donations to a nonprofit made at his request. Since Johnson is an elected official, he must report such donations, otherwise known as “behest payments.”

Johnson is married to former D.C. Schools Chancellor and education reformer Michelle Rhee, who has come under fire for being tight-lipped about funding to her StudentsFirst organization, a national lobbying and advocacy group that pushes for rigorous teacher evaluations and school choice. Rhee is not said to have any connection to the charges against Johnson.

The FPPC investigation was sparked by a September Sacramento Bee report that revealed thousands of dollars in donations to the mayor's Think Big arena task force had gone unreported past the required deadline. In some instances, they were reported several months late.

According to the Sacramento Bee, other late-reported donations solicited by Johnson went to City Year, a national program he recruited to Sacramento that places young tutors and mentors in schools, and to Teach for America, the teacher training program of which Rhee is an alumna.

KXTV reports the $37,500 fine is one of the largest ethics fines ever handed out by the FPPC against an elected official for non campaign-related actions. Johnson reportedly paid the fine -- which represents less than 1 percent of the overall donations he collected -- last week from campaign funds, according to his aides.

According to the FPPC’s report, Johnson cooperated with the agency's probe. He said "the failure to report [the behests] was unintentional, resulting from an administrative lapse and inadequate staff training." Investigators say the mayor did not appear to obtain "any personal monetary benefit as a result of the donations in question."

"While I appreciate acknowledgment in the FPPC report that this error was an unintentional administrative lapse related to efforts to raise resources for charities and civic causes, I take full responsibility," Johnson said in a statement. "At my direction, my administration has improved training and tracking procedures to ensure we are fully compliant moving forward."

The Sacramento Bee reports the case is scheduled for an FPPC hearing next week in San Diego, when the full commission will determine whether the fine is sufficient. The maximum fine Johnson faced was $125,000, according to the paper.



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