Hush money for Joe Johnson

January 11, 2010 10:13:00 AM



Good grief. What is the city thinking? 


Joe Johnson, the man who would be police chief, but who has been passed over three times, is starting the new decade with a tidy handout courtesy of Columbus taxpayers. 


Rather than fight a second frivolous lawsuit, the mayor and city council decided last week to give Johnson and, presumably, his lawyer, Jim Waide, a $32,000 payment and a $10,000 annual raise. At $64,000 a year, Johnson, an assistant police chief, will make more than some city department heads. Should Johnson work five more years, that''s an $80,000 payout courtesy of Columbus taxpayers. It could go higher.  


For what? 


A 2002 study found the department with serious leadership deficiencies, effectively saying look elsewhere for a chief. The city did so and in 2003 hired J.D. Sanders. Claiming it was "his turn," Johnson sued. By the old order -- making chief the officer with the most seniority from within the department -- it was Joe''s turn. 


But the rules had changed. Under the leadership of then-Mayor Jeffrey Rupp and guided by the ''02 study, the city conducted a search and found Sanders. The federal court in a 2007 ruling came down on the side of the city in the Sanders'' hiring saying there was no evidence of discrimination against Johnson. 


Sanders left to take a job in Franklin, Tenn., and the city again conducted a search that resulted with the hiring of Chief Joseph St. John. Johnson was one of four publicly interviewed for the job. It was clear to many who sat through those public interviews Johnson was not among the top choices. 


Undeterred, Johnson and Waide sued again charging discrimination. Rather than face the uncertainty of a jury and the costs of a trial, the city on Friday said, uncle. Maybe it was an economic decision. Not only is a lawsuit a time-consuming distraction, but winning can be expensive. 


Even so, it stinks. Should St. John leave and the city were to again hire someone other than Johnson, would Johnson and Waide again sue? 


Why wouldn''t they?