Part of Donna Johnson’s job as city clerk also includes the role of deputy liquor commissioner. It was in this capacity that Johnson was put on the defensive in early 2005, when “the city” made the decision to allow a tavern to pay a fine for getting caught serving a minor without the requisite public notice and hearing. The Daily Chronicle asked how a settlement could be reached when no charges were filed, and noted that the then-mayor, who also was the liquor commissioner, did not sign the settlement.
This occurred during an election campaign and challenger Frank Van Buer, who would himself become mayor a couple months later, wrote a stinging letter to the editor condemning “back-room deals.”
Johnson rebutted with her own letter. She defended the practice as standard operating procedure and a money-saving measure for taxpayers, even though the municipal code (at the time, at least) did not allow bar owners to waive hearings. Also:
In the matter of the Twin Tavern violation referred to in Mr. Van Buer’s letter, I happen to know that violation occurred because of a mistake made by an employee. It was not because of poor management. This establishment had a record of 40 years with no violations.
This is simply not true, unless the record somehow got erased.