College Chief Denounces ‘Vicious Attack’ on Credibility

Daniel de Vise, Washington Post, September 3, 2009

Montgomery College President Brian K. Johnson on Wednesday launched a defense of his administration, characterizing recent allegations of mismanagement and overspending as a “vicious attack on my credibility” by labor groups seeking advantage in contract negotiations.

More than 200 full-time faculty supported a vote of no-confidence in Johnson last week, 52, president of Maryland’s largest community college since 2007. Trustees are scheduled to meet in closed session at the college Thursday at 6 p.m. to consider Johnson’s performance in light of a report, prepared by faculty leadership groups and delivered to the board, that alleges Johnson was frequently absent from his office, skipped important meetings, intimidated staff and overspent with his corporate credit card. “I am disappointed,” Johnson said in a prepared statement, “that some members of the Montgomery College family have recently spread frivolous allegations in a vicious attack on my credibility. I have assured the Board of Trustees that these lies and half-truths will not detract from our efforts to ensure that students at Montgomery College receive a quality education, and attend world-class facilities.”

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The comments Johnson issued Wednesday marked his first public response to the faculty report, which alleges specific instances of missed meetings, charges to limousine services and evidence of “extensive travel” as trips have been curtailed for others at the college.

Johnson provided written explanations and clarifications to many details of the faculty document, whose contents were leaked and appeared in news reports last week. He had previously declined to comment on the advice of his attorney.

The president said a $4,051 hotel bill in Delhi, cited as a symbol of overspending, did not involve college funds. He said the trip had a legitimate purpose: to bring business to a county incubator in Germantown. He said he was not provided final documentation on the expense.

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A $780 tab from Lifestyle Transportation, a Boston limousine service, was for town cars, not limousines, Johnson said, and was booked for a member of the board of trustees who traveled with Johnson and another college official.

Johnson said he had not seen a full breakdown of the $58,165 charged on his corporate card between July 2007 and April 2009, as recorded in expense documents obtained by faculty through public records requests. He said that his corporate credit card had been “compromised” during that span and that some items in the records might be fraudulent. There was no explanation of how the card was compromised.

Johnson also has been plagued by persistent reports that he owes back child support. He appears on a list of “deadbeat parents” on the Internet site of the Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff, based on a bench warrant issued last year for $12,000 owed to a former spouse.

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Johnson also said he has never censored materials, answering another faculty allegation, and he “vehemently” denied the claims of some employees that listening devices had been installed in college offices.

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The faculty report also cites “threats of retaliation, and explosive, targeted rage” from Johnson. “Not true,” the president replied, saying he had received no formal complaints on behavior.

As for an Aretha Franklin performance scheduled for Sept. 11 at a cost near $150,000, Johnson said only $20,000 of that sum comes from the college’s operating budget.

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johnson

Brian K. Johnson.


Maricopa County sheriff’s detectives want to talk with embattled Montgomery College President Brian K. Johnson about an outstanding warrant that would land him in jail if he returned to Arizona.

Capt. Larry Farnsworth said the department is looking at Mr. Johnson, who is accused of owing at least $12,000 in child support in Maricopa County, Ariz., and confirmed the warrant is still active in that state.

“I’d love to convince him to come back,” Capt. Farnsworth told The Washington Times. “I’m happy to make him a resident of our jail.”

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According to the sheriff’s Web site, Mr. Johnson is listed as one of the county’s “deadbeat parents.” The site asks for information regarding his location and says an arrest warrant was sent to a Pennsylvania address of the college president and his wife in October–after Mr. Johnson sold the home, according to property records.

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“We’d be happy to put him in jail,” Capt. Farnsworth told The Times. “We’re an equal opportunity arrester.”

Capt. Farnsworth said Mr. Johnson could not be extradited from Maryland based on the warrant.

“It’s not that we don’t want him, but once he’s out of state we can’t touch him,” he said.

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Maricopa Superior Court records list three cases dating back to 1997 involving child support issues with two different women. The records also show that twice in the past two months Mr. Johnson updated his contact information with the court.

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Detective Aaron D. Douglas said that while the $12,000 Mr. Johnson owed only ranked him at 145 of the 1,200 “deadbeats” listed on the sheriff’s Web site, it was still a hefty sum.

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The warrant became an issue last week, when someone draped a large banner across fencing near the Rockville campus announcing the unsatisfied Arizona debt. The banner was hung a day after faculty members voted no confidence in Mr. Johnson’s leadership.

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