Ida Johnson speaks out during United Neighbors controversy

Johnson says her reputation has been tarnished

Chaos continues for United Neighbors in Davenport, and now it's founder and former Executive Director is speaking out. 

Ida Johnson has filed a lawsuit against her successor Evelyn Nelson and United Neighbors. She says she never received the early retirement fund she was promised after stepping down from her position in 2016, and believes her reputation has been smeared by those allegations. 

United Neighbors has been at the center of lawsuits, resignations and allegations for more than a year. Claims against Johnson include mismanagement of funds, missing property, using funds for personal use, and more. 

But Johnson tells Local 4 News she knows the truth, and has nothing to hide.

Ida Johnson set out on a mission to make a change in the 1970s. After leaving a small town in Illinois, she started what would later become United Neighbors in 1973. Johnson says she never thought she'd be filing a lawsuit against an organization she'd dedicated her life to keeping alive. 

"I believe in helping people and I've done that for all my life," said Johnson. 

Johnson says she was shocked by the allegations against her, accusations of mismanaging funds, using money for personal reasons, and more. Some of those claims are from former colleagues.

"After working with people forty years you'd think they would know you inside and out," said Johnson.

Anthony Briebiesco is representing Johnson. He says right now there is nothing to support allegations by United Neighbors President Frank Berka against Johnson.

"The proof it's not there, and when it actually comes to light, and that's what this process is going to do, we know my client's reputation is gonna be restored," said Bribiesco.  

Johnson says she did her best as the group's leader, and says no business is perfect.

"There were issues, any agency that stays for 43 years, has issues along the way believe you me," said Johnson. 

She says speaking up isn't just about her, it's about making sure the agency doesn't suffer from the controversy. 

"That the agency can go on and continue to do what it was founded for," said Johnson.  

Although there is still a long legal road ahead, Johnson says she knows her community, and nothing will stop her from serving them.

"I am still Ida Johnson, and I'm still here, and I will continue to be here, and what is being said is not true, and their faith in me and my faith in this community is that everything will be proven not true," said Johnson.

The next hearing in this case is scheduled for next Thursday.

Local 4 News has reached out for comment from Berka and Nelson but are still waiting on that response. 

UPDATE: Evelyn Nelson responded by email Wednesday morning with the following comment. 

"I am working diligently to refine the systems that I have put in place and ensure that the agency will prosper into the future with complete transparency and consistent accountability. 

"I am focused on making UNI the diversity powerhouse that our community so desperately needs. 

"We are steadfast in showing the communities we serve that we are as resilient as they are. Our eyes are set only on the goal of fostering unity and not division. 

"If you are looking for ways to serve your community, create meaningful diversity dialogue, and take action to end social injustices in our community: please join us at our 'Holiday World Tasting Tour' on December 16, volunteer with our STEAM program, or be a guest speaker at our new housing program 'Shattering Boundaries.' For more information on how you can help support our mission or become a sponsor, please visit our website at www.unitedneighborsdavenport.org"


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