Skip to comments.WHEN DID COMMISH KNOW?-JOHNSON INSISTS HE WASN'T AWARE IN '01 OF FBI PROBE (Phila.)
Posted on 11/04/2003 5:16:13 AM PST by randita
Posted on Tue, Nov. 04, 2003
WHEN DID COMMISH KNOW?
JOHNSON INSISTS HE WASN'T AWARE IN '01 OF FBI PROBE
By Jill Porter firstname.lastname@example.org
WHAT DID he know and when did he know it?
That Watergate-era question has now surfaced in respect to Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson and the federal investigation involving Mayor Street.
According to reliable sources, Johnson knew as far back as 2001 that the FBI was investigating possible corruption in the mayor's office - because he told then-Police Commissioner John Timoney and mentioned it at a meeting of other deputy police commissioners.
"That is totally untrue," Johnson said last week, shaking his head in consternation.
"I did not know. I know nothing about this investigation at all," Johnson said, refusing further comment.
But, according to sources with knowledge of a meeting of police brass that occurred in 2001, Johnson said the FBI was investigating corruption in City Hall and mentioned the names of several top aides to Mayor Street.
Johnson, then Timoney's first deputy, was known to have a close relationship with the FBI, after he worked with the agency during the 39th Police District scandal and other investigations.
"It wouldn't be unusual for him to know what was going on," one source said.
The meeting on the third floor of the Police Administration Building was allegedly attended by deputy commissioners Thomas Nestel, Charles Brennan and Robert Mitchell; former Deputy Commissioner John Norris; and Marvin Burton, executive officer of the Police Department, according to sources.
After I questioned Johnson last week, Karen Simmons, the Police Department's senior legal counsel, called to protest the Daily News' intention to print a story about Johnson's alleged knowledge of the probe.
She said Burton and the deputy commissioners still on staff would publicly declare that he never mentioned it at a meeting.
However, none of the deputy commissioners who were alleged to be at the meeting, nor Burton, would talk to me for this column.
When I called Timoney, now chief of police in Miami, for this column, he refused to either confirm or deny that Johnson had told him about an FBI investigation, saying he wasn't going to discuss any conversations he might have had with Johnson in the past.
If the sources are correct and Johnson did know of the FBI probe, an obvious question is: Why would he then sweep the mayor's office for bugs and potentially damage that investigation?
If Mayor Street had asked him to do so, the commissioner might have had no choice but to comply or else blow the cover of the investigation.
Both Street and Johnson have said that the mayor made no such request and that Johnson undertook the sweep of his own accord.
Indeed, it was Johnson's curious explanation about how he discovered the bug in the first place that has made him the subject of controversy in a scandal centered somewhere else.
Johnson told reporters he's been conducting regular sweeps of the mayor's office ever since he was assigned responsibility for the mayor's security detail in 1986.
When other police brass said such searches were rare rather than regular and routine, Johnson said he sometimes used security personnel outside of the Police Department for the sweeps without the knowledge of other commanders.
Johnson has yet to provide records that document his use of outside agents.
The allegation that Johnson knew about the probe two years ago is certain to deepen the controversy surrounding him.
While the FBI bug turned Mayor Street into a martyr who may reap its benefits at the polls today, it's brought nothing but trouble to the man who actually found it.
Send e-mail to email@example.com. For recent columns go to http://go.philly.com/porter.
© 2003 Philadelphia Daily News and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. http://www.philly.com
I could be wrong .. but I think this is the first that Timoney has been brought up in this mess
What can you say?
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