Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson doesn’t want the public to see private emails he sent to an attorney while he was involved with a national group of black city leaders. That’s according to local news outlets that requested the emails amid allegations that Johnson used his position as president of the National Conference of Black Mayors to promote a business run by his wife.
A California judge is expected to decide Thursday whether Sacramento can release the emails sent between Johnson and a black mayors' conference attorney. Johnson, who played professional basketball for 13 years before becoming the first African-American elected mayor of California’s capital, has sued the weekly city newspaper, the Sacramento News & Review, to stop certain emails from becoming public, according to a USA Today report.
Johnson’s personal attorney, Peter Haviland, said the lawsuit that his client filed in Sacramento Superior Court Wednesday is meant to prevent a violation of attorney-client privilege. "No responsible journalist nor attorney disputes that the attorney-client privilege is a bedrock of America's civil society,” Haviland said in an email to KXTV-TV.
“Public records requests are not intended to violate that privilege, and the law does not allow disclosure of attorney-client privileged materials pursuant to public records requests," the email continued.
Johnson, 49, was elected president of the National Conference of Black Mayors in 2012, one year after he married Michelle Rhee, a former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools. Members of the mayors’ conference had challenged whether Johnson's election as their leader was valid as well as claims that he used the position to promote his wife’s education reform nonprofit, StudentsFirst.
Through the California Public Records Act, news outlets have asked for emails Johnson sent to the black mayors conference’s bankruptcy attorney. The emails were sent by Johnson from an unofficial email account.