Aspen Skiing Co. owes employees for Johnsons’ transgressions

Now that Derek Johnson is being sent to prison for looting $6 million in skis and snowboards from the Aspen Skiing Co., the time has come for the company to negotiate restitution for all of the employees who worked in his division.

He and his wife, Kerri, carried out 17 years of scamming and pocketed $2.4 million, but the unchecked psychological reign of terror Johnson visited on his employees created the most lasting damage to the largest number of community members.

Letters to the court from senior Skico officials, including CEO Mike Kaplan, say that Johnson “created a culture of fear and intimidation within his department. His actions ruined some people’s careers, stunted the development of others and left an indelible mark on their character.”

In short, Johnson’s actions were those of “a calculating bully,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan said he was “astounded” when he recently found out about Johnson’s subculture of intimidation. However, he acknowledged that he had always stood up for Johnson.

In fact, Skico managers allowed Johnson to continue thwarting efforts to beef up inventory controls and technology, which could have pinpointed the losses much earlier.

Skico senior officials are the ones responsible for letting those lax business practices continue for so many years.

In addition to the calculable loss to employees of bonuses, raises, promotions and 401K contributions that Johnson’s massive thefts caused his department, were the incalculable emotional damages and pain he caused for so many years.

Kaplan and other officials should be lauded for the empathy that they have publicly expressed for the employees’ emotional pain and financial losses. Taking full responsibility would include compensating them appropriately.

Johnson fooled everyone, Kaplan and Skico managers, the Aspen voting public, other coaches and the parents of the kids he coached, while he and his wife repeatedly lied to the city so that they could occupy tax-supported affordable housing at the expense of a qualified couple.

Bernie Grauer