One of the notable Democrat political leaders in Georgia, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, whom locals call MVJ, engages in unethical behavior frequently in his official capacity. The local press is his propaganda mouth-piece and social media is often his bully arm.
As with many public officials throughout the nation, MVJ maintains a Facebook page featuring all of his government contact information and official government photo. He has nurtured his page to include a reach to over 25,000 people. As with all social media, treacherous potential and temptation abound.
Every Friday night, for 70 weeks, Mayor Johnson has conducted his ‘Date Nights’ live on his city politician Facebook page with hundreds of his most loyal followers. Other citizens who resent his leadership join to keep tabs on his dictatorial tendencies. Views of his ‘show’ typically amount to over 5K, which represents significant engagement in a city of only 145K, 25% of which lives below the poverty line. This is more than twice the state average.
During these ‘Date Nights,’ the Mayor normally blocks those with unfavorable questions or challenges, asserting that ‘He can’t have no negative.’ Critics who live outside of city limits, he tends to insult and say their views are irrelevant to him. However, he welcomes his fans from other states, throughout Georgia, and outlying counties.
On Friday night, July 30th, MVJ went public with a spur-of-the-moment crowdfunding project, which is the FOURTH time he has done so. So far, they have been for: 1) reading glasses, 2) his mom’s birthday, 3) his car accident on July 21, 2021, and, tonight, 4) to collect college money for one of his friends.
The Mayor solicits money and then directs people to his personal Paypal and Cashapp for direct payment. Even if he ‘claims’ he is taking money for someone else, there are other platforms designed for exactly that purpose. His accounts are not auditable in public records, and could possibly be flagged for a source of ethical violations.
Here is how MVJ played his ‘Date Night’ solicitation this week:
“Tonight, what I want to do. There is a young man, and I actually had a conversation with his mother. And, he was not going to college, and was able, from what I understand [? not sure?], was accepted to college. And, basically, the mom is scrambling, a single mom with multiple children. Now, they are excited about the fact that their son will go to college, which was not necessarily a possibility before. And, they are scrambling, and now they are short $2,000… $2,200. I want us to be a blessing (Kia, good to see you) to this young man. Here is what I am going to do. I’m going to put it in the chat and I hope that, those of you that can, will consider helping us to help bless this young man. Ok? So, what I will do (Kia was kind enough to give a condolence contribution for the passing of my car and so what I will do is give that money that you donated to this young man instead.) [Re-allocating crowdfunding contributions on the fly] My cashapp is _ and again, if you can, if you see it fit, again, I want to try to raise this $2,200 for this young man so that money is the last thing that he’ll worry about.”
Dozens of citizens contributed to his MVJ personal digital pay apps during a period of 30 minutes, announcing affirmations such as “Done,” “I’m sending to your PayPal when we done,” “Donation on the way! This is what a village means,” and “Sent.” One individual even said, “I just donated to the Van Johnson Scholarship Fund.” The Mayor responded by verbally thanking constituents by name who sent him these solicited funds in a visible manner.
He promised to tell them how much is raised and claimed that “all of the money” will go to the young man.
He played on the emotions of his constituents and employed solid sales tactics throughout the call. He devoted a solid ten minutes to motivating fund contributions, along with status reports to attempt his $2,200 ‘goal.’
There are more troubles with this crowdfunding besides it being a public relations nightmares. And, he has likely been warned in the past. According to the Code of Ethics Ordinance for City of Savannah elected officials (Sec 2-106), here are the established responsibilities and duties of elected officials:
-Public office shall not be used for personal gain (in question)
-The public shall have confidence in the integrity of its government (in question)
-Conflicts of Interest and Prohibitions : The elected official… shall not, under any circumstances, gain or attempt to gain any advantage by virtue of being in a public position.
-No elected official shall accept or receive, directly or indirectly, from any person,… any personal benefit under circumstances in which it can reasonably be inferred that the benefit is intended to influence the elected official in the performance or nonperformance of any official duty or as a reward for any official action of the elected official.
-No person… shall offer or give any personal benefit to any elected official or any partner-in-interest of the elected official.
-No elected official nor partner in interest of that elected official shall solicit from any person, directly or indirectly, any personal benefit…
-No elected official shall use or attempt to use their official positions improperly to unreasonably request, grant, or obtain in any manner any unlawful or unwarranted privileges, advantages, benefits or exemptions for themselves, or others…
-No elected official shall use his/her position in any way to coerce, or give the appearance or coercing, another person to provide any financial benefit to himself/herself or persons having an interest.
All citizenry across Savannah and throughout the United States can potentially be subjected to harms as a result of the unethical and possibly illegal conduct of elected officials. It only makes sense that we learn to act accordingly on these matters. It is absolutely essential that citizens bring all matters to account using all legal means, to include letters, complaints, demands, and even exploring jury powers.