© 2022 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
News

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

joseph_johnson.jpg

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.