FirstNet Vice Chairman Jeff Johnson resigns from Sonim Technologies board
FirstNet Vice Chairman Jeff Johnson has resigned from the board of Sonim Technologies amid conflict-of-interest questions, just days after being announced as a board member for the California-based manufacturer of rugged LTE devices.
“Today, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced that FirstNet Board Vice Chairman Jeff Johnson has resigned from his position as a member of the board of Sonim Technologies,” according to an NTIA statement provided to IWCE’s Urgent Communications on Saturday. “While he consulted with ethics officials before joining the board of Sonim, and received guidance on the proper recusals, Mr. Johnson determined that FirstNet’s mission would best be served by his resignation in order to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. We thank Mr. Johnson for his service and dedication to FirstNet.”
Johnson had been serving on the Sonim Technologies board since last summer, when government legal advisors determined that Johnson’s role would not be a conflict of interest, Sonim Technologies CEO Bob Plaschke said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. Johnson was announced publicly as a Sonim Technologies board member in a press release issued last Thursday, when conflict-of-interest questions were raised, according to multiple sources.
“Jeff Johnson and Sonim both extensively checked with the Department of Commerce legal staff to ensure both parties were clear of any conflicts of interest,” Plaschke said in a prepared statement provided to IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “The Commerce Department cleared Jeff joining the board. The press release issued by NTIA says as much. Having said that, Jeff’s first commitment is to public safety, and he has always put that up front.
“Last week, after we issued our press release about our directors, folks inside the Department of Commerce conveyed that the situation had changed since we talked to them. It was clear to them that Sonim was the leader in the FirstNet handset space and—as such, given our trajectory—Jeff would need to resign from our board. At the end of the day, we all need to do what is right for public safety. While we’re sad to see Jeff leave us, it’s the right thing to do.”
Johnson has served on the FirstNet board since it was created in 2012. His term is scheduled to expire in August 2019, according to the FirstNet web site. Prior to joining the FirstNet board, Johnson served as president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and was a key advocate in public safety’s effort to convince Congress to reallocate the 700 MHz D Block for first-responder use.