I have followed with interest the controversy regarding Dan Johnson. I don't know him personally but I was pleased to see that you ran an article on him so as to get his side of the story ("Meet Dan Johnson," Oct. 10).
While I would be the first to agree that plagiarism is wrong, I find it hilarious that not one letter printed in your Oct. 17 edition was in support of Dan Johnson, rather it was further piling on, including a letter from someone who claims to have been bullied by Mr. Johnson in grade school. Shades of the Mitt Romney bullying story that was pulled in the last presidential campaign. How low can we sink?
Mr. Johnson may not be properly apologetic enough for you. I personally believe that his apologies may lack something due to the perception of his critics. I don't know Mr. Johnson's politics but I would venture to say to his critics, he appears to be another rich, successful Republican businessman. In other words, guilty as charged and not to be forgiven!
Enough already! I just bet that every single one of the people who wrote letters scolding Mr. Johnson voted for the candidacy of Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Do these same people know about Mr. Biden's past history of plagiarism? Do they even care? Mr. Johnson is a school board member. Mr. Biden is vice president of the United States. Get some perspective, and as they say, "move on."
Kathleen Essa, Bayside
"I didn't even know what the fuck plagiarism was." No shit, Dan.
The point is that you know what plagiarism is now, but appear not to give a damn.
Truly exceptional people don't stand static and trumpet their accomplishments; they also know how to admit their faults with grace. You have not done that. Instead, you've made "yeah-but" justifications and blown off detractors with the time-honored middle school retort when caught red-handed: "You're just jealous!"
Not so, Dan. I have a life I consider a success, too, and I not only don't begrudge you your successes, I say that you should enjoy the fruits of you labor to the fullest. But I stand firm in my belief that you made a mistake at the Arcata High commencement, and that you continue to compound that mistake in the most egregious way by making excuses for your actions.
You could have served as a wonderful role model to students by demonstrating that the bigger person shows humility when caught in a blunder. Instead, you've become an example of how to make a bad situation worse. On the bright side, you've provided local educators with a fantastic object lesson when teaching their students about the scourge of intellectual thievery.
You may be Superman or you may be Lex Luthor; I've never met you and so cannot say, and frankly don't care. If my students perpetrate plagiarism in their work, I cannot weigh their relative character qualities when holding them accountable. The consequences fall equally hard on the plagiarizer whether she is a brilliant honors student or he is a lazy ne'er-do-well. Either way, they must face the consequences of their actions.
You're busted, Dan. Do the right thing. Step down and move on.
Carla Baku, Eureka
That was a subtle hatchet job Ryan Burns did on Dan Johnson.
Several years ago I opposed (in print) the developer's over the top multi-use project for the old Roger's Garage site opposite Jacoby Creek School. It included three tri-story buildings, 90 parking spaces, shops, apartments and two schools! It was OK'd by Tom Conlon of the city of Arcata despite or because it would be a wedge development which would bust open the north end of Bayside for further commercialization, which is the very reason I loathed it.
Even with my objections to that project, I think Dan Johnson deserved a more balanced published interview. The last words in an article often carry the most weight. It is abhorrent that Johnson lies so often and that he'd sooner cripple the school board than face the probable humiliation of resigning.
But a little more digging on Burns' part might have unearthed multiple Dan Johnson kindnesses to offset the darkness so well documented at the end of the interview. That would have provided the balance I look for in Journal articles.
Patricia Zephyr Markowitz, Bayside
Thanks to Ryan Burns for another thoughtful, well-crafted and morally significant cover story.
I knew nothing about Dan Johnson's roots, his prodigious energy and enterprise from an early age, or that he was the guy in that recent plagiarism flap. The cover picture recalls a recent president, but the enormous difference between Mr. Johnson and "W" is that our neighbor really did build his empire out of wit, sweat and a sharp eye for the main chance — rather than college, club and political connections.
However, there is an unfortunate similarity, too. Each seems to be unable to acknowledge — even to himself — when he has crossed that line that delimits decent civil behavior.
Plagiarism is the sin committed in stealing someone's intellectual work; notably contemptible when done to snatch money, snag glory or grab an unearned grade. The students were quite properly sensitive to the subject. A wiser head, (say, a teacher or board member?) might have suggested to Mr. Johnson when the issue arose that an apology on the order of "Hey, I wasn't bucking for a grade here — I just wanted to tell my daughter and her classmates how I felt and McCullough's oration expressed my feelings better than I could hope to — sorry if anyone misunderstood me." Everybody could then have stepped back relatively gracefully. (Particularly if the school people had thought to de-escalate by explaining the distinction between actual academic plagiarism and colloquial fair use.)
But apparently this guy can't back down gracefully. "I'm a freakin' winner, man." His smarmy "apology" to the school board appears to be of a piece with his inability even to recall his non-mutually-satisfactory business and legal relationships.
As an earlier Burns observed: O wad some Power the giftie gie us, To see oursels as ithers see us!
Mark Drake, Fortuna
I read the Dan Johnson piece with some interest, as it was his chance to display himself in his own words. The letters published in the Oct. 17 issue fairly characterized my response to the piece, so I won't pile on.
But one important point seems to have been missed. Why is a person with no clear understanding of basic academic integrity (i.e., no clear understanding of the importance of plagiarism), and no apparent regard for the value of post-secondary education (e.g., a brief attendance at a community college before returning to construction work) even sitting on the school board in the first place? He ran unopposed; I get that. So that is in no small part the fault of the community at large. But giving back to the community consists of more than being a warm butt in a seat with nothing of value to contribute. Seems to me the community would have been better served if the board had operated one member short.
Just my humble opinion, of course.
James "Bronco" Weseman, Eureka
I just read your article on Dan Johnson, and am totally amazed!
I'm assuming this man graduated from high school, and he doesn't know the definition of plagiarism? He doesn't see the difference between saying the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the national anthem and passing off something written by another person as your own? Did he not learn basic grammar when he was in school? Examples: "It would have been tore up ...", "I would have never ran a second time ... ."
This is aside from the denial of all the litigation he has been though in the past. And using the "f" word in a newspaper interview, along with the juvenile expression "fricking"? And this man is a member of the school board? Give me a break!
Elizabeth Thatcher, McKinleyville
I just finished reading the article about Dan Johnson. I was touched by his hard work ethic and lack of college education; that he was too ignorant to even know what plagiarism is and that he did have good intentions. He loves his family, and that is wonderful.
But I was shocked at the amount of swearing in this interview. You actually printed the "f-bomb" at least twice, as if it was normal journalism language, along with smatterings of others. Up to this point, I have not seen so much cussing in an article in your magazine, let alone the "f" word.
I wish he would just resign, because, although he has good intentions, apparently he is unable to set a good example for our children, including mine, who are earnestly working so hard at their education so that they can have a chance to succeed in this world. At least my son is.
I wish he would just resign because most of us want him to. We don't want him making decisions regarding our children's education.
I wish he would just resign because he sounds like Richard Nixon during the Watergate trials, in that he just can't recall his part in suing people or being sued by others, when there seem to be many statements saying that he had.
I don't doubt that you are a good person, Dan, but as Dr. Seuss so aptly wrote to President Nixon in a letter to the editor back in the '70s, "Will you please go now?"
Lori Keating Wright, Trinidad
Shame on you, Mr. Johnson. An apology for the plagiarism is simple. Humility is a place one visits when making an apology. I detect none, only defensiveness. And, most importantly, you owe an apology to the teacher present at the board meeting you angrily told, "Get out of the room right now and go stand in the hallway while I speak." What I detect in that reaction to the teacher is arrogance and a very solid bubble of self-interest surrounding you. Yes, you are a very successful Humboldt County businessman. You have a beautiful family, and you have done many "good" deeds for the county. But, that doesn't qualify you for a ticket to be rude and a bully even though you might think so. Shame on you twice.
Thank you Ryan Burns for your insightful journalism and reminders that self-interest can be blinding. Izzy Stone would like this article.
Bruce Hitchko, Eureka
Thank you for your informative long interview with Dan Johnson. I believe the idiom, "Give a man enough rope and he will hang himself" applies to this situation. You let his words speak for him, with due diligence on fact-checking.
So, what can we, as the residents and voters of the NHUHSD, do about it? I've spoken with the elections department and a special recall election would cost the school district in excess of $20,000. I am unwilling to start that process in these tight economic times. He has already damaged the district and its students enough.
What we can do is vote in both challengers and the incumbent least likely to listen to Dan. We are in luck, because Brian Lovell is an absolutely outstanding candidate for the board (full disclosure, I feel so strongly about this I sent him money for his campaign), and Mark Suchanek has been involved with kids and schools for at least 20 years, and cares deeply. It is evident from Dana Silvernale's comments that she is as appalled as the rest of us by Dan, and so, she gets my third vote. Colleen Toste and Mike Pigg may be decent board members, but are friends of Dan, and their removal may make Dan uncomfortable enough to leave the board. If that happened, then maybe the new board could reappoint one of them to finish out his term. This is a much cheaper solution to the Dan Johnson problem than a recall election. Money matters to school districts, and so does integrity. Too bad Dan is so blind to the consequences of his actions.
Pam Sowerwine, McKinleyville