Tuesday, April 20, 1999

Lockland police chief indicted for theft




BY DAN HORN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Lockland Police Chief Ken Johnson was charged Monday with submitting false records so he could collect overtime payments for hours he did not work.

        A Hamilton County grand jury indicted Chief Johnson on charges of theft in office and tampering with records.

        He pleaded not guilty to both counts in Common Pleas Court and was released without bond.

        Prosecutor Mike Allen said his investigators determined Chief Johnson used phony time sheets to arrange payment of 11 hours of overtime between June and August of 1997.

        Although the amount of money involved is small, Mr. Allen said the prosecution is necessary because “public officials must be held to a higher standard.”

        Chief Johnson, 45, was suspended with pay after his indictment Monday.

        Lockland officials praised Chief Johnson's work at the police department and said he had performed well in a variety of jobs there since joining in 1978.

        “I'm deeply saddened,” Mayor Jim Brown said in a statement.

        “Ken Johnson has brought to our police department a high degree of professionalism, has strengthened morale within the department and has been very responsive to the needs of our village.”

        He said Chief Johnson would remain on paid administrative leave until the case is resolved.

        His attorney, William Whalen, said the case had gone before a grand jury once before and did not result in an indictment.

        Instead, he said, prosecutors referred the case to Lockland officials for an internal investigation.

        Mr. Whalen said the investigation found his client was guilty of poor record-keeping, not a crime.

        “The worst-case scenario is that it's sloppy record-keeping,” Mr. Whalen said.

        Chief Johnson could not be reached for comment.

        Mr. Brown said Chief Johnson was suspended without pay for two days in 1997 because his records were “extremely poor and unprofessional.”

        He said village officials offered to turn over the results of their investigation to prosecutors, but that offer was not accepted.

        Mr. Allen said his office began its investigation after receiving a tip from a former Lockland officer.

        He said the officer, Mark Reiber, revealed the information during an administrative process that eventually led to his firing.

        If convicted on both charges, Chief Johnson would face a maximum sentence of two years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Lawyer says records sloppy
       



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