Sheriff updates MS council on Johnson arrest


(Posted July 27, 2016)

By Amanda Amsel, Staff Writer

In a packed meeting room on July 25, Madison County Sheriff Jim Sabin updated Mount Sterling village officials on the arrest of former village administrator Joe Johnson.

“As you are all well aware, Joe Johnson was arrested (Aug. 19) and was charged with 30 felony counts,” Sabin said. “Some of the charges he was indicted on included failure to file a tax return, theft and engaging in a pattern of organized crime.”

Johnson is accused of stealing close to $1 million from the village during his four years as administrator. Authorities say he overpaid himself by more than $190,000 and used village credit cards to make down payments on vehicles, buy trips to Florida and buy other personal items like appliances, garage equipment, tools and electronics.

The Sheriff’s Office started investigating Johnson’s expenditures after he resigned at the end of 2015. When the new mayor and administration started in 2016, they noticed financial discrepancies.

“I was asked to look at the expenditures because they didn’t look correct,” Sabin said. “I agreed this wasn’t right and contacted the state auditor who has been heading up this investigation since then.”

After six months of investigation, the state auditor determined that action was needed and Johnson was arrested.

“We also can now secure assets from Johnson and search his property,” Sabin said.

Assets secured from Johnson include a Dodge Charger, a Ford Mustang and a 2016 Ford F-350. A lien has been placed on his house, which he bought for $131,351 early this year.

If Johnson is convicted, the assets will be forfeited and sold at auction. The auction’s proceeds will go to the village.

When asked how something like this could happen, Mark Pitstick, the village’s law director, said, “The council only saw the bills entered into the system, and no one saw the credit card statements but the village administrator. Bills also were paid directly from the village’s bank account, so no one saw those either.”

According to Pitstick, the village is taking steps in an effort to prevent such theft. The village no longer has credit cards and now requires two signatures on checks and three signatures on purchase orders.

“However, if a criminal wants to commit a crime there is no stopping them,” Pitstick said. “So, we can’t guarantee this will never happen again.”

Several residents who attended the July 25 council meeting requested an opportunity to speak, however Mayor Lowell Anderson did not permit anyone from the audience to speak. Residents who completed public participation paperwork prior to the meeting protested.

“If you aren’t on the agenda, you aren’t speaking,” Anderson replied. “This meeting is adjourned; you may go wherever you want.”


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