Kevin Johnson Wants Restraining Order to Prevent E-mail Release

AP Photo/Cliff Owen
AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson seemingly has something he wishes to hide.

Johnson filed a restraining order request against the city of Sacramento to prevent the Sacramento News and Review from gaining access to e-mails he sent as mayor. Johnson claims that the release would harm him and the National Conference of Black Mayors (NCBM), of which he was once vice president and president. He named the NCBM as a co-plaintiff.

Yet Vanessa Williams, executive director of NCBM, said angrily, “We want nothing to do with Kevin Johnson. He’s not even a member. He tried to ruin this organization. I dare Kevin Johnson to find one person with this organization who supports him. Just one! Everybody with this organization hates Kevin Johnson. Nobody gave him permission to sue for us.”

James Sanchez, the attorney for the city of Sacramento, agreed with the June 12 request from the Sacramento News and Review that the e-mails are a matter of public record. As a result, the city plans to release the e-mails to the media on July 6, prompting Johnson’s request.

Johnson and his lawyers argue that the e-mails are a matter of “attorney client privilege,” adding that their release would NCBM “irreparable harm.”

Jeff vonKaenel, publisher of the SN&R, was shocked that Johnson would try to pull an end-run, telling KCRA, “I don’t get it. I think the Mayor thinks he’s intimidating, but I think he’s a slow learner … This one is so ridiculous, it didn’t take much backbone for us, actually, for us to stand up. I’m just stunned the Mayor would do this.”

Asked by KCRA why Johnson is attempting to suppress the e-mails, Johnson’s spokesman, Ben Sosenko, protested, ”“We don’t feel the mayor is going through great lengths to protect them. This is just a regular, necessary, legal step…I don’t think there’s anything in those emails that would be disparaging to the mayor. But that’s not the issue. The issue is that he has a relationship that’s protected with his attorney as he was going through these legal proceedings with the National Conference of Black Mayors.”

Accusations against Johnson for requiring staffers to perform work unrelated to their employment have been made in the past.

Johnson’s attorney, Peter Haviland, wrote:

The writ petition filed today by the National Conference of Black Mayors, the Chapter 7 Trustee for the Estate of the National Conference of Black Mayors, and Mayor Kevin Johnson in his capacity as former President of the National Conference of Black Mayors, is not a lawsuit against anyone for damages nor is it an action to prevent the release of public records. It is only a “writ”—a common and simple procedure designed to protect attorney-client privileged documents.

 All of the parties who filed this writ, including Mayor Kevin Johnson, are committed to transparency and disclosure of all appropriate public records. They are equally committed to the bedrock principle of attorney-client privilege, which is recognized in the public records request statute.

The restraining order request will be examined at a hearing on Thursday.