Cleveland Councilman Ken Johnson’s double-talk about kids no match for court records: Mark Naymik

September 20, 2018

Cleveland Councilman Ken Johnson’s double-talk about kids no match for court records: Mark Naymik

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Court records contradict City Councilman Ken Johnson’s earlier claims that he has no connection to two employees of the city’s Kenneth L. Johnson Recreation Center, which is named for the councilman.

The records from Cuyahoga County Probate Court show that the two city employees, Darian Johnson and Elijah Johnson, had been among 11 boys whom the councilman took into his home between 1990 and 2016 and became their legal guardians.

The boys, then known as Darian Peters and Elijah Brown, moved into Johnson’s house before - or at the time - guardianship was granted by the court, the records state. Johnson also helped them and most of the other boys change their last names to Johnson while they were minors.

The records don’t jibe with what Johnson told me last week, when I asked whether he was related to Darian and Elijah and a third man – Ken Johnson, Jr. -- all of whom are listed on the city’s payroll as employees of the recreation center.

At the time, Johnson acknowledged that Ken Jr. was his son, but denied having any connection to Darian or Elijah.

The records also conflict with what Johnson told me later, when I confronted him with paperwork in which he identified Darian, Elijah and Ken Jr. as his children.

Johnson then stated that Elijah and Darian were not his “legal” children and had never lived with him. He could not explain why he listed them as his children four separate times between 1989 and 2013 on paperwork he submitted to the Editorial Board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer.

Johnson did not respond to my call Wednesday about the court records bearing his signature that state that Elijah and Darian had lived with him.

In court papers filed in August 1997, a social worker wrote for the court that Johnson had said he met Elijah three years prior, when his staff selected the boy to be a City Council page. The social worker said Elijah and Johnson became friends and the boy started referring to Johnson as “dad.” The social worker wrote that the boy needed dialysis treatment at home and that Johnson could better monitor his health needs than the boy’s mother.

The social worker described Johnson’s home as a “spacious, twenty room house” valued at the time at $250,000.

The social worker also wrote that Johnson was previously married and that he had custody of five sons, including one named Darian.

Johnson was granted guardianship of Darian in 1990 because his birth mother was “economically unstable,” records state.

The social worker also wrote in the 1997 report that three of Johnson’s sons were adults and that two of them worked for the city of Cleveland and the third worked for the city of East Cleveland. The youngest two, including Darian, remained at home, the social worker wrote.

Court papers say that among the boys Johnson was granted guardianship over were three teens from Brisbane, Australia. Court papers list Johnson as the their “great uncle.”

Johnson also became guardian to a boy from Puerto Rico and a boy from the Dominican Republic. Court papers list the boy from Puerto Rico as Johnson’s nephew and the boy from the Dominican Republic as the nephew of Johnson’s sister.

At times, Johnson has featured pictures of some of his wards in his newsletter and has brought some of the boys to City Council meetings.

So, why is he reluctant to talk about them now? I will let you know if he changes his mind.






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