|Ken "I'm Mr. Irreplaceable" Johnson|
Monday, January 07, 2013
Irreplaceable Ken Johnson? Not at that price!
I was speaking with a friend today who — apropos of an acquaintance who, reluctant to challenge a workplace bully chose instead to reward to reward his nastiness — was musing over the consequences of yielding to bad behavior. We seemed to agree that the culture of an environment suffers when bad behavior goes unpunished.
We had barely finished our chat when the news arrived that Cleveland City Council members had agreed in caucus to re-appoint Ken Johnson to the $74,000-a-year Ward 4 council seat he had resigned just last week. The move, regarded as unprecedented for a city councilman, makes Johnson a double-dipper: he will resuming collecting his councilman’s wage even as he begins to draw down his retirement benefits from his three-plus decades of “public service”.
[Some wags, mindful of Johnson’s less-than-stellar attendance record at council committees, might see this as triple-dipping, on the theory that Johnson was already semi-retired.]
Johnson had resigned because of a change in state law that would have reduced his pension benefits had he chosen to retire anytime after December 31.
While I think double dipping is a practice best restricted to very special circumstances if not banned outright, it is state law and Johnson has taken advantage of it. Given his me-first request, there was little doubt a majority of his fellow council members would support it, no doubt empathizing with his situation.
Johnson is now having his cake and eating it too, in full view of those who pay for the ingredients, bake it, serve it, and clean up afterwards. Most of them struggle to afford even the crumbs of such munificence.
The part that bothers me most is that some of these elected officials seem to think they are indispensable. The reality is that Cleveland would function just as well if Johnson were in his own rocking chair instead of the public one from which he purports to render leadership on behalf of its constituents. Faced with a choice between finding a worthy successor and feathering his nest, he looked in the mirror and cried, “Me!”
What's next, declaring himself Mr. Ward 4 Emeritus?
Respect for the councilman and his colleagues took a sharp hit when Council sanctioned this bit of selfishness. Let’s hope he doesn’t compound this insult and injury by standing for reelection.