A federal indictment alleges that Councilman Kenyatta Johnson leveraged his influence over land use in his district to secure “sham contracts” for consulting work for his wife, political consultant Dawn Chavous. Here is how the indictment says two deals played out.
2000: Universal Companies, a South Philadelphia nonprofit founded by music producer Kenny Gamble, purchases the Royal Theater for $286,252. The theater is in disrepair and is in Johnson’s 2nd Council District.
2012: The Department of Licenses and Inspections issues citations to Universal for the dilapidated state of the building.
Summer 2012: Universal tries unsuccessfully to sell the theater.
2013: Universal applies to the Philadelphia Historical Commission to demolish the theater and build on the site.
May 2013: A resident near the Royal Theater files an action under the state’s Act 135 law to award the property to another developer because of its blighted condition.
May 2013: Universal enters into a contract with Chavous Consulting, a company founded by Chavous. From August 2013 through September 2014, Chavous receives $66,750 in consulting fees from Universal. The indictment says Chavous performs “very little work” for Universal.
June 4, 2013: Two Universal executives charged in the indictment, Abdur Rahim Islam and Shahied Dawan, hold a fundraiser for Johnson.
July 10, 2013: Islam meets with Johnson to discuss plans for the theater.
Oct. 30, 2014: Johnson introduces a bill in Council for a zoning variance for the theater property to allow large commercial development on the site.
December 2014: The zoning variance is approved by Council, forcing withdrawal of the Act 135 suit.
September 2016: Universal sells the Royal Theater to developer Robert Roskamp for $3.7 million, netting a $2.7 million profit.
Jan. 27, 2005: The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority agrees to sell land at 1309-13 Bainbridge St. for a nominal fee of $3 to a partnership that includes Universal Companies. The agreement requires Universal to begin construction of 109 single-family units within 18 months or the authority could reclaim ownership.
January 2014: The redevelopment authority begins the process of reclaiming the properties. The land was undeveloped, trash-strewn, and the subject of neighbors’ complaints. An authority official contacts Johnson for his support.
Jan. 16, 2014: Chavous, while on a consulting contract with Universal, emails Islam to alert him that the redevelopment authority intends to reclaim the Bainbridge Street properties. Shortly afterward, Johnson advises the authority that he would not support reverting the properties to its ownership. Johnson’s stance keeps the properties in Universal’s partnership. As of 2015, the properties were valued between $2.6 million and $3.5 million.