From an interview conducted on August 13, 2021
Written by John Face
Photo Credit John Face
September 12, 2021
City Watch NEWS
As First Precinct Council member Vicky Clark received a no bid contract for cleaning services at Albion College it certainly turned a lot of heads in the community. This writer received several calls from community members regarding this. During our interview I addressed this with Dr. Johnson starting with my letting him know that I support his commitment to minority businesses.
The question I posed was were other minority businesses given an opportunity to bid on the contract or was it just given to the Council woman? Johnson replied “that it was not an open bid process as often is the case in small towns like this”. City Watch can’t confirm or deny that giving exclusive no bid contracts to elected officials or anyone is common in small towns.
Johnson stated he was trying to solve a problem with a current contractor at the college. He made inquiries in the community, and a company was referred to him that was just starting up he said and that it was focused on cleaning. He did not supply who referred the company. The company is called Shepherd Care Services and is solely owned by Council member Vicky Clark and it was formed in 2017 according to records posted on the State of Michigan License and Regulatory Affairs site. At that time he says he did not know the company was Clarks until he made contact with them. After reaching out he said he turned this over to his Chief of Operations and they took it from there and Clark secured the contract to keep himself out of the process.
I asked Dr. Johnson if he understood that giving a council member an exclusive contract “doesn’t pass the smell test” and he categorically stated that had nothing to do with Vicky Clark getting the exclusive no bid contract. He explained that in small towns many things overlap. He tried to compare the hiring practices for making videos for the Albion Community Foundation to the hiring of the cleaning contract.
This writer checked to see what exactly Johnson was talking about. Brick Street Marketing has done videos for the Community Foundation in the past. Brick Street which is owned by Caster Concepts has done some videos for free and others for money. I reached out to Bill Dobbins regarding this and he said he was more than willing to show me “the books” of business between the Community Foundation and Brick Street.
Dobbins said “I have nothing to hide as we do work for many companies and doing some free work is one of the many things we do”. He pointed out that Brick Street did a video for the Coke sign campaign for free.
This writer found Johnsons attempt to compare how the college giving an exclusive no bid contract to an elected official was the same as the biggest marketing company in Albion doing work for the Community Foundation is well, laughable, because one directly benefits Clark as the other helps a business grow. It should be noted that Clark has since resigned her seat on the Council and according to sources she will be moving out of her district is the reason.
We moved on from this to the next question. I wanted to discuss Albion Council member Linda LaNoue and her position at Albion College. LaNoue applied for and was hired during Johnson’s tenure by the college according to the Colleges website, as Assistant Director Special Projects, a relatively new position at the College. I asked does he see why this doesn’t pass the smell test like Vicky Clark. Johnson stated LaNoue was hired because she has an incredible amount of experience in her background and that being a member of Council played no role in her getting the job. LaNoue told this writer in a short discussion that she has recently resigned from her position at the College. She stated she loved working at the College and with Dr. Johnson and had nothing but praise for him.
We then moved on to my final Council member Nora Jackson and her program Difference Makers. Jackson’s organization uses Washington Gardner and I asked does she get to use Washington Gardner for free as a non-profit. Johnson said “you will have to ask the YMCA as she works with them in their contracted space”.
At this point he said “as long as you are doing a list you should add Lenn Reid”. Ms. Reid is an Albion City Council member as well. He said that there are accusations that the college did work at Holland Park which was one of her projects in order to influence her as well. I explained that the Holland Park project the College helped with was entirely different as the college has helped on similar projects in the past.
I told him I knew the motivation of the college was to help in Holland Park not influence. He said you should add it as it falls in the same type of allegation as the others. He had a problem with my acceptance with the help the college gave toward Holland Park and my interrogation, as he put it, of the others as inconsistent? I advised him I saw nothing inconsistent about me seeing no wrong about the college’s help with Holland as that project did not benefit Reid directly or anyone else.
I then asked if he felt Council members should recuse themselves from votes regarding the college and he offered several valid points as to why that would make a bad precedent.
City Watch will follow with Part 3 soon.