Mayor Hires Former State Senator Convicted Of Extortion

CLEVELAND (AP) - Mayor Jane Campbell (pictured, right) hired a former state senator who recently finished serving a 15-month prison sentence for extortion.

Jeffrey Johnson on Monday will become a special assistant on Campbell's staff, earning $50,000 a year.

Rodney Jenkins, Campbell's chief public affairs officer, said Johnson's role will be to help "strengthen relationships with the faith- and African-American communities."

"He is able to open up doors that may be a problem for us in those areas," Jenkins said. "He is very well respected. He is a neighborhood kid."

Johnson, whose record prevents him from holding public office again, will also work as a liaison to City Council and the state Legislature.

Johnson said he was appreciative that Campbell hired him, "understanding that she may receive a negative response from some circles."

Johnson was convicted of extortion in 1998 for accepting $17,000 in contributions and personal loans in exchange for helping grocers get licenses to sell liquor and lottery tickets and accept welfare-related food coupons.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)