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United Way of Greater Cincinnati CEO steps down after claiming he was bullied by board chair

United Way of Greater Cincinnati CEO steps down after claiming he was bullied by board chair
Posted at 6:27 PM, Oct 31, 2018

CINCINNATI -- Days after Michael Johnson went on leave from his position as CEO of United Way of Greater Cincinnati, the group announced he had agreed to give it up for good -- "amicably."

His tenure, which began July 9 to acclaim from UWGC, will end Nov. 15 amid concerns about an anticipated multi-million-dollar fundraising shortfall that could hamstring crucial elements of the agency's social programs.

Johnson's exit was precipitated by claims he had been bullied and discriminated against by board chair Julia Poston, whom he said in an email had repeatedly threatened his position, attempted to deter him from playing a visible role in the United Way community and referred to him as "nothing more than an angry man." 

"The claims of discrimination don't represent what United Way stands for," the organization wrote in the statement announcing Johnson's departure. "It will stand by its actions and those of Julia Poston, a volunteer with a longstanding track record for her work with United Way and the communities it serves."

According to the statement, Johnson and the board of directors "have agreed to amicably part ways," and he will assist interim CEO Ross Meyer with the leadership transition.

The statement also said the organization had been pleased with Johnson's work in his first 100 days and surprised to learn of his claims he had been bullied by Poston.

In a Facebook post, Johnson did not discuss the circumstances of his departure but thanked city leaders such as Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard and Avondale community activist Ozie Davis III for welcoming him to Cincinnati. 

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld posted a response on Twitter late Wednesday evening.

Prior to accepting the position with United Way, Johnson had been president and CEO of Boys & Girls Club of Dane County in Madison, Wisconsin. He described the fight against poverty as one in which he had a deep personal investment after his childhood in Chicago, where he lived in "one of the toughest public housing projects in the country" and struggled to learn how to read and write.

"I’m blessed to have worked my way out of poverty," he told WCPO in an exclusive May interview. "I can’t wait to get there. We’re going to put together a bold, audacious plan with smart goals that are going to help us deliver on this work."