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Mt. Sterling Residents Shocked, Sad At Village Administrator's Arrest


Residents of Mt. Sterling have expressed shock and sadness that their former village administrator may have stolen public money.  Former administrator Joseph Johnson faces charges he stole nearly $1 million from village coffers.  He was arrested early Tuesday at his home in Jackson County.

Authorities say the 46-year-old Johnson stole the money during the four years he was administrator for Mt. Sterling, a village of about 1,700 people southwest of Columbus.

A 30-count felony indictment unsealed Tuesday accused him of racking up $300,000 on a village credit card and a variety of other crimes while working in the $66,000-a-year job.

Authorities say he was arrested Tuesday morning at his rural Jackson County home without incident.

“I feel bad for the guy.  If he’s convicted of this; if that’s what happens,” said longtime Mount Sterling resident Daniel Adams.  Adams says he became acquainted with Johnson through his work in the community. 

“I know him.  He’s just a really friendly person.  And he did things for the town.  He got some grants to do stuff.  And I was just shocked.  I didn’t think that … it’s still hard to believe that Joe did it,” Adams said.

That same sentiment was expressed by several people I spoke to in Mt. Sterling.  They’re sad and disappointed.  And they wonder how so much money could have allegedly been stolen from the community which only has a 6-figure operating budget. 

“That’s what’s surprising about it, too.  How did it go unnoticed?  Mt. Sterling is not a wealthy town.  That kind of money, you wonder where it even came from; where he could even get his hands on that kind of money,” Adams asked. 

Sheriff’s deputies confiscated items from Johnson’s home that allegedly were purchased with village funds: appliances, tools, televisions, even vehicles.

Mt. Sterling resident Ruth Pickering says she wondered about the new cars and trucks Johnson could be seen driving around town.

“In the $50,000-range, not old, brand new.  And he used them for a lot of city work – he’d act like they were for city work.  So, I don’t know how he got those.  So that should have been a red flag to everybody,” Pickering said.

Documents say Johnson was able to overpay himself by almost $200,000 during his time as administrator.  A six-month investigation began when Johnson, village mayor Charlie Neff and another village employee resigned early this year. 

Johnson’s arraignment is set for July 27.