After a four-month stint in Cincinnati, Michael Johnson is returning to Madison to his former position as head of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, the agency announced Thursday. His start date is Dec. 15.
“We are thrilled to welcome Michael back to Madison, and look forward to getting him up to speed on all the wonderful things our staff, donors and supporters have accomplished over the last few months,” Boys & Girls Club board chairwoman Jenny Meicher Santek said in a statement. “Michael’s home is here at Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, and we’re eager to bring his trademark passion back to the team.”
The move comes after Johnson — a beloved figure and prodigious fundraiser in his time in Madison — alleged a “hostile work environment” at the job he’s had since July 9 as president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Cincinnati.
The United Way announced Monday that he was on leave from the agency, according to a report from WCPO-TV. Then on Wednesday, his lawyers put out a statement saying Johnson and the organization “are parting ways on friendly terms.” He formally leaves his position on Nov. 15, according to a report in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
“Thank you Cincinnati for making me uncomfortable! This is what leadership is all about and I believe my time here will help address some of the underlying challenges the region faces,” Johnson said in a Wednesday Facebook post.
In an Oct. 26 email to members of the United Way board, Johnson said he has been subject to subtle threats, discrimination and micromanagement by board chairwoman Julia Poston.
“She is unfairly attacking my credibility with key stakeholders and creating challenges within our organization,” Johnson wrote.
Johnson said Poston put undue pressure on him in hiring decisions, required him to report to a subordinate, created a hostile work environment and called him an “angry man.”
The Cincinnati United Way responded in a statement that “the claims of discrimination don’t represent what United Way stands for” and that “it will stand by its actions and those of Julia Poston, a volunteer with a longstanding track record for her work with United Way and the communities it serves.”
WCPO reported that in an email to the United Way board of directors, Poston and future board chairman Tim Elsbrock wrote that “we and several other members of the Executive Committee have been discussing certain performance issues with Michael” and “did not expect such a response from Michael.”
The Cincinnati United Way serves 10 counties in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.
During his eight years at the Dane County club, Johnson was known as a skilled fundraiser and an outspoken advocate for the children the club serves. He was not afraid to criticize local officials on social media and often live-streamed speeches or club events on Facebook.
Before he left, he had started the process to open the club’s first permanent location outside of the Madison area — a child and teen center in Sun Prairie. He also oversaw the merger of the Dane County club with clubs in Fort Atkinson and Walworth County.
He quadrupled the number of children and families being served and expanded the operating budget by 318 percent, making it one of the fastest-growing clubs in the country, according to the club’s Thursday statement.
“I couldn’t be happier to return to Madison as the leader of Boys & Girls Club of Dane County,” Johnson said in the statement. “My time away has only reinforced that this is my dream job, and I appreciate the opportunity to rejoin this incredible staff and champion the great work they have continued to do for the community.”