COLUMBUS, Ohio — On Tuesday, a special commission comprised of three retired judges appointed by the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court suspended Cleveland Councilman Kenneth Johnson from office due to the criminal allegations against him.
The council was formed at the request of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
Johnson currently serves as councilman for Cleveland's fourth ward. He was indicted in February on federal charges for allegedly diverting federal funds to the city and used them for personal gain. Specifically, Johnson is charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit federal program theft, six counts of federal program theft, five counts of aiding and assisting in preparation of false tax returns, one count of tampering with a witness and one count of falsification of records in a federal investigation.
The indictment alleges that for over eight years, Johnson conspired with—his assistant, Garnell Jamison, and Robert Fitzpatrick, who worked for the City of Cleveland Division of Recreation and others to commit federal program theft by inducing the city to issue reimbursement checks from the city's general fund to Johnson for Ward 4 maintenance expenses that were never actually performed.
"These numerous felony charges against Mr. Johnson go to the very nature of his elected position – they directly relate to Mr. Johnson’s service in public office and the authority he has in that office, and they allege abuse of that trusted position," the special commission wrote in its report. "The functioning of that office and/or the rights and interests of the public would be adversely affected if Mr. Johnson were allowed to continue serving while such criminal charges are pending against him."
A spokesman for Cleveland City Council said that it is council's understanding that the Cuyahoga County Probate Court will be asked to name a replacement for Johnson.
"We will work with the Probate Court to find a qualified replacement for councilmember Johnson to represent the best interests of the residents of Ward 4," said spokesperson Joan Mazzolini.
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