Chicago mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson pays off more than $3,000 in water bill debts to the city

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CHICAGO — Chicago mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson paid off more than $3,000 in water and sewer bills to the city after facing criticism over his handling of his personal finances.

The controversy erupted in recent days after it emerged that Johnson owed $3,357.04 in unpaid water and sewer bills and more than $400 for unpaid parking tickets to the city.

Initially, the Johnson campaign released a statement noting the bills were “on a previously established payment plan, and are on schedule to be fully resolved before (he) takes office as our next mayor.”

On Friday, Johnson, a Cook County commissioner, released a statement saying he’d paid off the debt and attacking rival Paul Vallas.

“Like a lot of working families, a few years ago, my family got behind on our water bills and established a payment plan. We’re not alone — there’s $421 million in unpaid water bills right now because for too long our city has leaned on rate hikes and fees to combat the budget deficit Paul contributed to,” Johnson said. “I don’t want this to be a distraction in the crucial final days of this race, so we’ve tightened our belt and decided to pay it off now. I have zero debt with the city.”

The Vallas campaign released a statement Saturday criticizing Johnson.

“Chicago is a $28 Billion enterprise and Brandon Johnson’s financial mismanagement coupled with his total lack of executive experience make it hard to believe that he can successfully oversee the city’s budget,” said Ald. Walter Burnett, a surrogate for the campaign.

The late-breaking controversy is an embarrassment for Johnson, who has accused Vallas of mismanaging school districts across the country but now is facing similar questions.

Johnson’s county commissioner campaign had a history of campaign finance violations by Johnson that have led to thousands of dollars in fines. His campaign in February blamed it on clerical errors.