Clerk chosen faced charges

Tampering with records alleged
Sunday, November 12, 2006
BY KHALIL E. HACHEM
News Staff Reporter

The woman chosen as the next Ypsilanti city clerk was arrested last year in Ohio on charges of tampering with the financial records of a children's football league.

The charges were later dropped because a prosecutor did not give Lisa Johnson's attorney a copy of bank statements used as evidence in the case in time for a trial.

The dismissal is on appeal, according to Montgomery County, Ohio, court records.

Johnson, 33, a former city clerk in Moraine, Ohio, was approved Oct. 31 as the next Ypsilanti clerk, on a 5-1 City Council vote. Council Member Lois Richardson voted no, and Mayor Pro Tem Trudy Swanson was absent.

The council's decision is pending the outcome of a background check.

Johnson resigned from her Moraine clerk's job in September after six years with the city. She received about $19,000 in severance pay in addition to compensation for unused vacation time, according to a report in the local newspaper, the Dayton Daily News.

On Thursday, the Moraine city manager referred questions about Johnson to the city's attorney.

Johnson declined to discuss the arrest, in October 2005, which occurred 11 months before she left the Moraine city clerk's job.

"I'm not inclined to speak publicly about it,'' she said Wednesday.

Johnson also filed a sexual harassment complaint against a Moraine City Council member in 2000. She said she settled with the city over that complaint. "I signed an agreement not to talk about it,'' she said.

The Dayton Daily News reported that Johnson alleged 19 separate harassment incidents, and that the Moraine city attorney ruled her complaint baseless.

Earlier this year, Johnson told the Dayton Daily News that her arrest was politically motivated because her father ran unsuccessfully against the mayor. The Dayton newspaper also reported that Johnson circulated petitions calling for the mayor's recall.

According to Ohio court records, Johnson was charged with tampering with a record, a first-degree misdemeanor that carries penalties of six months in jail and $1,000 fine. Montgomery County, Ohio, Court of Appeals records state that in November 2003, Johnson, "knowing she had no privilege to do so, did falsify ... data or record(s).'' The appeals court records stated that Johnson submitted a treasurer's report to the West Carrollton Recreation Association, and that her record of deposits for September and October conflicted with those of the bank where the deposits were made.

The charges against Johnson were dismissed in March. Prosecutors appealed the decision, calling the failure to provide the records "inadvertent.'' The prosecutor's office also stated that a short delay of the trial would have been more appropriate than dropping the charges.

Ypsilanti Assistant City Manager Robert Bruner, who is also the city's personnel director, said Ypsilanti conducts background checks only after a candidate is chosen for the job.

Bruner said the city did not know about the charges when it selected Johnson. He said that Johnson revealed the arrest charges to him after he told her she had been selected for the clerk's job, pending the background check that is still being conducted.

Council Member William Nickels, D-Ward 2, said Johnson did not reveal the arrest during her interview and council members did not know about it before this week.

Bruner declined to comment on the charges. He said the council will review the background check information before making a final decision.

"You cannot judge a book by its cover,'' Bruner said. "Just because you lost a job somewhere else, it does not mean that you cannot do a good job here.''

The city is replacing former Clerk Cherry Lawson, who left the city in August to take a job in Arizona.

Khalil E. Hachem can be reached at khachem@annarbornews.com or 734-482-3225.



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