La Verne councilmen says he’s innocent


Councilman Steven Johnson pleaded not guilty today to a conflict of interest charge, stemming from a 2007 council vote.

We didn’t have a reporter at Pomona Superior Court when Johnson entered his plea this morning, but my guess is it was probably pretty cut and dry.

If you’re not familiar with the case, the District Attorney’s office filed a misdemeanor count against Johnson earlier this month based on a vote he cast at a 2007 council meeting.

At that meeting, Johnson voted for a University of La Verne expansion plan despite being advised by the city attorney to recuse himself based on a potential financial conflict.

Johnson operates an insurance business along Arrow Highway, a few hundred feet from the campus. He also co-owns the 3,500-square-foot property on which his business sits.

I called Johnson today, and he sounded a little caught off gaurd over the phone. In the end he only had this to say to me: “I don’t have any comment.”

Johnson will be back in court July 2 for a pre-trial hearing. Officials say he’ll have the option to select a jury trial or court trial. Apparentlly, until then, his attorney will be reviewing the DA’s case file including discovery documents.

Johnson faces a maximum of six months in jail and a $10,000 fine if convicted.

Also, If convicted, Johnson’s misdemeanor count would be considered a violation of the

Political Reform Act, which would prohibit him from being a candidate in an election for four years from the expiration of his term, Callahan said.

Johnson is up for re-election in March 2011.