Louisville Metro Councilman Dan Johnson is facing an ultimatum.
The beleaguered Democrat can resign from the city’s legislative body — on which he has served for nearly three decades — or his council colleagues will begin the process of removing him from office.
Leaders of the council’s Democratic caucus presented the deal Thursday at the conclusion of a two-hour closed door meeting at City Hall. Members assembled to discuss the findings of an investigation by caucus leaders into allegations that Johnson sexually harassed fellow council member Jessica Green.
Green accused Johnson of groping her as the two huddled closely for a photo during a news conference at Wynadotte Park. Johnson has dismissed the incident as an accident and issued an apology, which he followed with a cease and desist letter from an attorney that threatened legal action against Green if she continued to discuss the incident.
On Thursday, Bill Hollander, the head of the Democratic caucus, said Johnson’s actions are “inconsistent with the standards of conduct that we should expect of any public official and any member of the Metro Council.”
Johnson was not immediately available for a comment. His attorney, Thomas A. McAdam III also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
‘We will move forward’
Johnson’s Metro Council district encompasses neighborhoods near Iroquois Park — Beechmont, South Louisville and the Louisville International Airport. He was first elected to public office in Louisville in 1992, when he served on the now defunct Board of Alderman.
He’s long touted his efforts to bring professional basketball to Louisville and build sidewalks in his district.
Earlier this month, Johnson called a news conference where he announced to reporters he’d resign from the Metro Council’s Democratic caucus. Johnson told reporters then he believed he’d been unfairly treated by his Democratic colleagues.
Removed from the caucus, Johnson will be without some services afforded to other council members, said Tony Hyatt, spokesman for the caucus. He added Johnson is the first council member to be removed from the Democratic caucus.
For instance, caucus staff can assist council members in conducting research for legislation, maintaining district websites and providing communication services, Hyatt said.
Johnson, however, will not be barred from attending caucus meetings, Hyatt said. The meetings are generally held prior to formal council meetings and are open to the public.
Hollander, the caucus chair, said “it’s important” to be a member of the caucus. He expressed little remorse regarding Johnson’s exit from the caucus.
“We will move forward without Dan Johnson,” he said.
The Next Steps
Democratic leaders are hopeful Johnson will adhere to their recommendations and resign from the council.
If he fails to do so by the August 1 deadline presented Thursday, Hollander said the caucus will move forward with formal efforts to remove Johnson.
To do so, at least five Metro Council members must form a “charging committee” to levy charges against Johnson. Both the committee and Johnson are afforded the option to acquire legal representation and the matter could, eventually, go to trial in Circuit Court.
“It’s an expensive process, it’s a time consuming process,” Hollander said. “It’s a process we very much hope we can avoid.”
Council President David Yates said the allegations against Johnson and the situation that has ensued is an embarrassment to the Metro Council.
“It’s a black eye on the entire community,” said Yates.