Kenyatta Johnson [Emma Lee/WHYY]
Kenyatta Johnson [Emma Lee/WHYY]

Final preparations are underway in Federal Court for a civil jury trial involving City councilman Kenyatta Johnson.

The issue: how he dispenses city-owned land.

In 2014 OCF Realty proprietor Ori Feibush and a Montgomery County developer Michael Pollock each sued Johnson separately over how he came to determine to sell City-owned property.

In the original complaint filed by Pollock under his development company Bag of Holdings, LLC, he charges that Johnson overrode guidelines used at the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority for determining the winner of City-owned vacant and disused properties.

In several transactions which Pollock had thought he entered a successful expression of interest meeting the PRA’s requirements, evidence was found after discovery that Johnson directly intervened to redirect the property to his preferred developers even though PRA rules specifically require competitive bidding when multiple expressions of interest are proffered.   The winners of City-owned property were those who established a political relationship to Johnson, the lawsuit alleges. Federal Judge Wendy Beetlestone dismissed the core claims in this lawsuit and it is presently being appealed in the Federal Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

In the Pollack lawsuit, internal Redevelopment Authority emails revealed that one such competitive bidder who got property directed with Johnson’s help is Felton Hayman, a personal friend of Johnson’s and a prior campaign contributor.

In the lawsuit filed by Ori Feibush which is now headed to a jury trial, Feibush contends in the complaint that Johnson had canceled land sales already approved by the Redevelopment Authority using the guise of Johnson’s support for affordable housing as a smokescreen.

In the Feibush case, internal PRA e-mails revealed that once Johnson had discovered that the PRA was in the middle of completing a land sale to Feibush, Johnson intervened to cancel the sale.

First filed in Common Pleas Court, the case has since elevated to Federal court.

The trial is currently scheduled to take place May 9th.

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