Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel – October 30, 2000
By John W. Allman
DAVIE — Suspended from his job and under police investigation, Rocky Johnson never turned in his town-issued cellular phone.
Instead, he kept dialing on Davie’s dime.
Since being suspended on Sept. 21 and released for good Oct. 1, Johnson has used his phone more than 600 times.
His most recent phone bill, charged to the town, will cost taxpayers $723. It includes calls made from Sept. 13 to Oct. 12.
Johnson, who spent less than four months as a part-time parks and recreation activities leader, still has the phone despite being the focus of a criminal investigation for misconduct.
His attorney, Daniel Aaronson, said Monday that Johnson, 56, will turn the phone over to the town if asked. “This is not going to be an issue,” he said.
Johnson, a friend and business partner of Mayor Harry Venis, was suspended following an internal investigation into allegations he had sexual relations while working at the Pine Island Community Center; twice groped a female employee; and invited a 12-year-old girl to play strip poker.
Davie police have taken over the investigation of those and other allegations and will turn over their findings to the State Attorney’s Office. Johnson, father of professional wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, has denied any wrongdoing.
Venis said Monday he thought Johnson should have turned in his phone once he was suspended and “Mr. Johnson should reimburse the town, or pay the bill directly, for any calls he made that were unauthorized.”
The mayor said he believed all temporary employees with the town’s Parks and Recreation Department received cellular phones.
Since being hired in June, Johnson has used his phone more than 1,000 times, talked for more than 46 hours and accumulated $888.63 in total bills.
Of those calls, 36 were to Venis — 16 to his home and 20 to the mayor’s cellular phone. The records do not reflect the phone number of any incoming calls Johnson received.
Venis said he assumed Johnson, a former professional wrestling champion, was making calls from a personal phone. And he said he believed his calls with Johnson were work-related.
The mayor, who is opening a professional wrestling school in Davie with Johnson, has been criticized for influencing the town’s decision to hire Johnson, a charge he denies.
Venis drove Johnson to his job interview, sat in on the interview and was listed by Johnson as a reference.
The town has tried to downplay allegations that Johnson spoke frequently with Venis.
Acting Town Administrator Tom Willi ordered a town memorandum on its internal investigation changed because it included repeated mention of Johnson’s calls to Venis. Willi called such information “irrelevant.”
Willi was out of the office on Monday and was unavailable for comment.
A review of phone records showed only five of the phone numbers dialed by Johnson included the 797 prefix used by all town offices.
More than 20 long-distance calls were made to Tampa phone numbers. Johnson lived and worked in Tampa prior to moving to Davie, according to his job application. Two Miami phone numbers received numerous calls. Johnson called one of the numbers more than 60 times between June 20 and Oct. 12.
Venis said he knew Johnson had “several cell phones.”
“I don’t keep track of which one is the town phone and which one is the personal phone,” Venis said. “I’m not in charge of telephones.”