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By Brian Hews
A few weeks ago, in a controversial move, ABCUSD Board member Lynda Johnson left her paralegal job at Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office in Compton and accepted a Deputy Field representative position with newly elected Los Angeles County 4th District Supervisor Janice Hahn.
Many questioned the hiring, as Johnson’s political views and vindictive actions against the ABCUSD union and teachers are in sharp contrast to those of Supervisor Hahn’s.
Conflict of interest questions, as outlined in several Hews Media Group-Community News articles, also surrounded the hiring, as the cities that Johnson’s Deputy Field representative covers substantially overlaps the cities she represents as an elected ABCUSD Board member.
Now, a legal opinion by the ABCUSD’s law firm of Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud, and Romo (AALRR) calls into serious question Supervisor Hahn’s hiring and Johnson’s right to be simultaneously holding the ABCUSD Board member position while a Deputy Field representative with Supervisor Hahn.
HMG-CN has exclusively obtained the opinion from AALRR, sent to all ABCUSD Board members and Superintendent Dr. Mary Sieu, that strongly indicates Lynda Johnson is in violation of Government Code 1126 and should either resign her ABCUSD Board position or quit her job with Supervisor Hahn.
The opinion letter titled Summary of Potential Incompatible Offices and Activities of Board Member was “in response to ABC’s concern about the new employment (with Supervisor Hahn) of ABC Unified School District (“ABCUSD”) Governing Board member, Lynda Johnson.”
The opinion examined two government codes, Sections 1099 and 1126.
Section 1099 prohibits a public officer from holding two incompatible “elected offices,” which did not apply to Johnson.
But Section 1126 on the other hand, contains a prohibition that is not limited to dual office holding, and describes quite clearly how Johnson is in a conflicting position and should resign from one of the positions.
Section 1126 prohibits local agency officers such as Johnson from engaging “in any employment activity for compensation which is inconsistent, incompatible, or in conflict with his/her duties as a local agency officer.”
The Section also prohibits the employment position from “interfering with the duties, functions, or responsibilities of her appointing power or the agency by which she is appointed.”
The key word in the 1126 is compensation, with AALRR writing, “by its own terms, activities will only be considered incompatible under Section 1126 if they are performed for compensation.”
The statute provides several examples of incompatible activities that are directly applicable to Johnson’s position with Supervisor Hahn.
1126 prohibits “utilizing the local agency’s time, facilities, or prestige.”
Johnson herself recently admitted she is in direct violation of 1126, telling ABC Board members, Superintendent Dr. Sieu, and AALRR that “when the County Supervisor’s office presents a proclamation to the outgoing ABCUSD Board President, Johnson plans to have her assistant present the proclamation in her place.”
1126 also prohibits “performing an act that may later be subject to…inspection, or review… of any other officer or employee or the agency.“
Several ABC Board members have asked for a review of Johnson’s employment with Supervisor Hahn with some calling it, “a blatant move to advance her ambitious political career at the expense of those that elected her.”
AALRR was very clear in the case of Johnson.
“The essence of Section 1126 is to prevent public officials and employees from engaging in activities that would test their loyalties to the local agency which they serve and inhibit the performance of their responsibilities.”
Both chambers are inside Johnsons’ ABCUSD and Deputy Field representative cities of Cerritos and Artesia.
It would be quite difficult, at luncheons such as the aforementioned, for Johnson to separate her duties as an ABCUSD Board member and a Supervisor Hahn Deputy Field representative as AALRR contends.
Another test would encompass the conferences and meetings that Johnson attends, which according to sources, is more than forty per year.
Some of the meetings are with the ABCUSD Facilities Committee, many ABCUSD parent group events, and several school board conferences that occur throughout the year.
Visiting ABCUSD school sites, as is often done by ABC Board members and Supervisor’s Deputy Field representatives, is another example of the inherent conflicts between the two positions.
Separating the two offices would once again be quite difficult when awarding proclamations to teachers at the sites.
Acknowledging those conflicts, AALRR went on to say, “Section 1126 is of concern given the significant geographic overlap with (Supervisor Hahn’s) District 4 and the ABCUSD, and Ms. Johnson’s acknowledgment regarding the presentation of annual proclamations.
The letter proceeded to outline what most of those concerned with the situation already knew; that Johnson’s employment with Supervisor Hahn presents major conflicts on a number of levels and that she would not be able to act as an ABCUSD Board member when she is representing Supervisor Hahn.
1. Johnson cannot interact with the ABCUSD while performing Supervisor Hahn job duties.
AALRR stated, “It is our opinion that in order to prevent the possibility of incompatible activities under Section 1126, Ms. Johnson will need to refrain from having any interaction whatsoever with the ABCUSD, or matters directly affecting the ABCUSD, as she executes the job functions of her Field Deputy position.”
Johnson’s position with Hahn is full-time and also calls for working at night.
2. Johnson’s employment with Hahn is prohibited; Johnson must resign one of her positions.
Once again AALRR stated, “If the responsibilities of the position ultimately would require continuing or pervasive interaction with the ABCUSD…then it is our opinion that the employment (with Supervisor Hahn) would be prohibited.”
3. Attorney General would likely sue Johnson for incompatible offices.
Lastly, the letter stated what HMG-CN published in several articles prior to the AALRR opinion, “It is unlikely that a court or the Attorney General would find that Ms. Johnson could effectively serve the interests of both the ABCUSD and her new employer simultaneously.”
Several emails into Johnson for comment went unreturned.
Johnson Has History of Controversy Fighting for Politicians Rather Than Students
This is the not the first controversy for Johnson as an ABC School Board member that indicates Johnson favors her political career over the elected office she currently holds.
It was well known that Johnson aided Cerritos Councilwoman Carol Chen in helping to defeat the $235 million ABCUSD school bond, Measure AA, two years ago.
On July 14, 2014, HMG-CN exclusively reported that Johnson met in secret with then-Cerritos Mayor pro-tem Carol Chen to begin mapping out a strategy that would derail the $235 million dollar General Improvement Bond.
At the time, the ABCUSD was in desperate need of repairs to its infrastructure and had authored an exhaustive Facilities Master Plan for each school if the bond passed.
Johnson was aware of the Plan, but proceeded to fight the bond anyway.
If AA had passed, and with the passage of Proposition 51 this year by California voters, ABCUSD would have been a recipient of part of the $3 billion generated by Proposition 51.
But the actions of those against AA, including Johnson, cost the children, parents, teachers and staff of the ABCUSD the additional Proposition 51 money.
Sources told HMG-CN that Johnson, who up to that point was a lifelong Democrat, “all of a sudden became a Republican to become friends with the controversial Chen just to further her political career. ”
And lies about the General Improvement Bond by Chen and others did not matter to Johnson.
In an email to supporters, Chen said, “Given the facts I know of currently, if the bond passes it will impact/increase your property tax bill hundreds of dollars annually. ABCUSD School Board members Lynda Johnson and Soo Yoo both have reached out to me to get this information out to the public.”
The statement that “your tax bill will increase hundreds of dollars” was a complete lie. The tax was on the assessed value of the homes not the appraised value, as Chen contended.
Johnson knew that at the time, but did nothing.
Johnson went on to support Chen and the lies perpetrated by her allies and AA failed to pass, this while several bonds in other area school districts easily passed.
Meanwhile, the disrepair at ABCUSD remained, thanks in part to Johnson.
Six months later, the ABCUSD Board snubbed Johnson and elected Maynard Law as President of the Board.
Johnson was nominated for President but lost on a 3-4 vote with Law, Board Members Olympia Chen, Armin Reyes, and Celia Spitzer voting no.
ABC members told HMG-CN that Johnson’s opposition to Measure AA and her alignment with Cerritos’ Carol Chen severely hurt her chance to be President of the Board.
Johnson then initiated a payback scheme against Olympia Chen, asking Chen to step down as President and “officially asked” ABC Board members to hold a hearing to remove Chen.
“She’s been very public in telling people that Olympia is senile and suffers from Alzheimer’s, and she is trying to remove her, ” said the high-level source.
“It is really sad, Johnson has become a menace to the Board. Ever since her re-election, she has been very combative as a Board member. Her latest actions are just the tip of the iceberg.”
Johnson then attempted to block the appointment of long-time committee member and ABCFT Union Representative Gavin Riley, throwing a normally tranquil Board meeting into chaos.
Riley commented later, “Ever since fellow Board members opted to bypass her normal rotation to be president of the board in the aftermath of her flip-flop on support for the school bond in 2014, Ms. Johnson’s behavior has become more and more erratic. This attempt to engineer the makeup of a district outside committee to her liking is just the latest in this theatre of the bizarre. That is a collective bargaining issue. I have served on the Finance and Audit Committee since 1993 when I was appointed by the teacher’s union; the school board has never before challenged or voted on such employee appointees. The unions and only the unions pick their members of district outside committees.”
Johnson’s action became even more disturbing when, after the meeting, she confronted fellow Board member, now President of the Board, Chris Apodaca in the ABCUSD parking lot over the Riley issue.
Two witnesses who did not want to be identified told Hews Media “we heard some yelling and realized it was Lynda Johnson, she was yelling at Chris Apodaca.
“Lynda did not seem to care if anyone heard, and some very inappropriate words were said. I heard a couple f*** words from her directed at Apodaca and she then said the union was crooked and that Apodaca was a union puppet. ”
The resident then said Apodaca “tried to walk away” but Johnson “kept after him, until he got to his car.”
Johnson denied the confrontation to Hews Media Group, citing her own witnesses, but her witnesses never came forward.
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