By Tony Jackson
Camille Johnston, the Dodgers senior vice president for communications and chief spokesperson for the past two years, said on Friday that she is leaving the organization. She will be staying on through Jan. 1 to help oversee the club’s first-ever float entry in Pasadena’s annual Tournament of Roses parade.
Johnston’s departure, which is officially being termed a resignation, comes just two weeks after the club named Charles Steinberg as executive vice president for public relations and marketing. Steinberg’s hiring effectively inserted an additional bureaucratic layer between Johnston and Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt that hadn’t previously existed since Johnston joined the organization in October 2005.
“I thought about it for a while, and I think this is best for me, for the Dodgers and for the new person who is coming in,” Johnston said. “They hired new executives, and I think it is good for them to have a clean slate and be able to assemble their own team. … This was my decision after long discussions with the McCourts.”
The Dodgers also hired Dennis Mannion as chief operating officer on Nov. 7.
Despite Johnston’s claim that she is resigning, multiple sources within the organization confirmed that she is being forced out. It became apparent when Steinberg was hired on Nov. 27 that Johnston’s job might be in jeopardy. This despite the calming effect she had on the organization almost from the moment she arrived in the midst of a particularly stormy period in the club’s history.
At the time, the Dodgers were coming off a disastrous season in which they went 71-91 and finished fourth in the National League West. Meanwhile, the McCourts were being widely criticized by fans and the media for what was perceived to be a directionless stewardship of the club marked by a series of unexplained firings of key employees. General manager Paul DePodesta, meanwhile, had just fired manager Jim Tracy and was interviewing potential replacements, all the while unaware that he himself would be fired a few days later.
After bringing in Johnston, the McCourts seemed, presumably on Johnston’s advice, to fade into the background. The result was that they avoided much of the public criticism that had plagued their first year and a half after buying the club from NewsCorp in February 2004.
But the McCourts have long coveted Steinberg, a longtime Boston Red Sox executive who has worked for the Dodgers as a consultant since April. Johnston’s departure makes her the fourth communications chief to resign or be dismissed while the McCourts have owned the team.
The Dodgers could agree to terms with free agent Hiroki Kuroda as soon as today after making what general manager Ned Colletti called “significant progress” in negotiations with the right-hander from Japan on Friday.
“We had a couple of phone conversations,” Colletti said. “Hopefully, we’re closing in.”
Kuroda arrived in Los Angeles from Tokyo on Wednesday, but plans to return no later than Tuesday. The Dodgers have offered what is believed to be a three-year, $30 million contract.
The Dodgers offered no further comment Friday on the Mitchell Report on steroid use in baseball. There was a passage in the report referring to an organizational meeting in October 2003 in which club officials discussed possible steroid use by Dodgers players, but no current Dodgers player was implemented in the report.