Cincinnati United Way Board Chair Resigns Amid Community Outcry Over Michael Johnson’s Departure

    Michael Johnson, Julia Poston

    The chair of the board of the United Way of Greater Cincinnati has resigned amid backlash from staff and community members over the departure of CEO Michael Johnson, who has announced that he will return to his former post as CEO at the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County.

    News station WCPO in Cincinnati reported yesterday that 25 United Way staff members had signed a letter demanding that Julia Poston resign from the Board, and five more had signed the letter anonymously. Poston was asked to leave a staff meeting that got emotional at times, which she did, WCPO reported.

    Cincinnati City Council member Tamaya Dennard also called for Poston to step down.

    “In order for the community to regain trust in the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, board chair Julia Poston should end her term immediately,” she wrote in a statement.

    About 20 community members, including several United Way staff, protested at Friday morning’s United Way board meeting. At the end of the meeting, the United Way announced Poston’s resignation.

    Poston’s resignation comes after Johnson, who had just started as CEO in July, emailed a long letter to all board members, alleging that Poston micromanaged, isused “subtle threats” and undermined his authority as CEO. Johnson and the United Way board announced Wednesday that they would part ways “amicably,” and the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County announced Thursday that it had hired him back, effective December 15.

    Many community members in Cincinnati attributed the friction to Johnson’s race — he was the first African American CEO in the local United Way’s history of more than 100 years.

    “Many of the staff here have experienced those same type of issues permeating throughout these walls,” United Way employee Sarah Ghee told WCPO. “We feel that in order to move forward, really as an organization, we really need to clean house.”

    “United Way has some amazing board members and I am thankful for the time I’ve spent with many of them,” Johnson said in a message to Madison365. “I heard about the actions of my colleagues and I believe United Way will continue to unite communities to changes lives. They are a wonderful organization and I wish them all the best.”