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Former Faulkner County administrator pleads guilty to misdemeanor theft

Posted: May 30, 2013 - 9:27am

Almost one month after being fired, former Faulkner County administrator Jeff Johnston, on Thursday, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor theft-of-property charge stemming from asphalt work done on Johnston’s driveway in 2008 using county resources.

Johnston entered the plea before Faulkner County Circuit Judge Mike Maggio. Johnston was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and court costs.

Johnston was originally charged with felony theft-of-property for using county resources for asphalt work at his home. The amount of work done totaled $3,859.54.

Johnston was not ordered to pay restitution for the work because he had already paid the amount to the county road fund. The Faulkner County treasurer’s office received a check for the exact amount in the form of a donation from former Faulkner County Civil Attorney Stephan Hawks on June 23, 2010.

Faulkner County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Troy Braswell said the payment was categorized as a donation at the time, but was actually restitution.

“I think the bottom line is Mr. Johnston is not in a position to take advantage of the citizens of Faulkner County anymore,” Faulkner County Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland told reporters afterwards. “The two things we wanted, him not having the purse strings to the county and criminal accountability. I think we got that today.”

Hiland said the county can now move forward from something that has caused division for over a year.

“We’ve got a great county, great citizens,” Hiland said. “They’ve deserved better than they have gotten from their county administrators, and I think we’re going to move forward from today.”

Johnston was fired from his county position earlier this month. Hiland said if Johnston had not been fired, his resignation would have been a condition of his plea.

Johnston’s case has been a long process for all parties involved, which has included entities at the local, state and federal levels.

The Faulkner County sheriff’s office learned from a neighbor of Johnston in November 2008 that she believed Johnston was utilizing county resources after she witnessed dump trucks deliver three loads of asphalt to his residence, according to an affidavit.

After attempts to multiple parties and the failure to garner a subpoena from then-prosecuting attorney Marcus Vaden, the investigation was turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in March of 2009. After almost three years of no action taken by federal authorities, the case returned to the state level on Feb. 23, 2012, according to an affidavit.

The affidavit states that Stan Hargrove told sheriff’s deputies in March of 2012 that he and Mark Hearon, who owned the dump trucks, performed the work at Johnston’s home. The affidavit states Hearon later admitted to helping with the asphalt work.

Hargrove said Johnston paid him cash for the work, approximately 2 weeks before the driveway was paved, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit states that when Hargrove asked Johnston how they would get the asphalt Johnston said by charging it to the county, “the way we always do it.”

The sheriff’s office investigation confirmed three loads of asphalt were picked up by trucks belonging to Hearon and delivered to Johnston’s home in Mount Vernon. The loads were billed to the Faulkner County Road Shop on July 17, 2008, the affidavit states.

The loads were submitted for payment on a Faulkner County purchase order, and paid for with a Faulkner County check written to Rogers Group Inc. for $79,741.47.

Hargrove told sheriff’s deputies that he received multiple calls from Stephan Hawks who told him the project was a “turn-key” job and that Hargrove needed to sign a receipt prepared by Hawks, the affidavit states.

Hargrove said he initially agreed to sign the receipt, but later called Hawks and said he would not because it was not right.

In an interview with then-Faulkner County sheriff Karl Byrd, the Faulkner County treasurer Regina Oakley informed Byrd that she had provided documents to a federal agent regarding the asphalt work, and said the federal agent informed her that she would be receiving a check from Johnston or Hawks in the amount of $3,859.54.

Oakley said she received a check for the amount from Hawks on June 23, 2010 in the form of a donation to the county road fund.

Johnston was arrested and charged charged in August with felony theft-of-property, a class B felony with a potential sentence of 5-20 years in prison.

Johnston’s trial was scheduled to start Aug. 29.

Hiland said Thursday even though Johnston will not serve time in prison, there is still criminal accountability and that Johnston received the same treatment as any other defendant.

“He’s no longer a harm to citizens of Faulkner County,” Hiland said. “I think that’s important.”

(Staff writer Lee Hogan can be reached by email at lee.hogan@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1246. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)

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357
1866
Points
357 05/30/13 - 09:34 am
4
0
I'm glad to see him being

I'm glad to see him being held accountable for running fast and loose with taxpayer money.

Diogenes
9809
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Diogenes 05/30/13 - 11:00 am
1
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Fortunately for him

His mugshot, like the mugshots of those related to folks working in the courthouse, have been removed from LCD's Faulkner County Booked website.

Profiting from someone's misfortune, just not all of them.

reader
18512
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reader 05/30/13 - 11:13 am
1
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Wonder if Civil Service

will still be paying him a retirement when it comes due?

schultheis
1069
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schultheis 05/30/13 - 12:11 pm
3
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He should face additional

He should face additional fines for that haircut.

Zweck
2582
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Zweck 05/30/13 - 01:10 pm
0
0
Good

Now there can be a little more trust in county govt. Hopefully nothing else pops up that can't be explained, and when he was fired, my initial thought was he was going to plead guilty to something.

357
1866
Points
357 05/30/13 - 08:12 pm
1
0
This article has a different

This article has a different tone to it compared to the one at the link below where "Johnston will be proven innocent".

http://thecabin.net/news/local/2012-08-22/attorney-johnston-will-be-prov...

I heard one of the state senators say, when speaking of the issue with former State Treasurer Martha Shoffner, it's amazing how little some people will sell their soul for. How applicable that statement is in this case too.

conwayville
533
Points
conwayville 05/30/13 - 08:36 pm
0
0
Only the beginning

They say it's only illegal if you get caught. Mr. Johnston got caught. The rest of them haven't-yet. The extent of corruption in our locale is WAYY beyond what people know. On that subject, how can you trust your government if they aren't being truthful? Every time a public official gets caught doing this kind of thing, a little more of the governmental agencies' credibility gets damaged.

Jollymusician
231
Points
Jollymusician 05/31/13 - 10:09 am
0
0
Accountability my...

This isn't criminal accountability. You won't see another defendant with the same charge get that good of a deal. Mr. Hiland, it isn't restitution unless it comes directly from Mr. Johnston through the courts, then to the county coffers. It's like saying it's not stealing if you put the money back later. Mr. Johnston should either pay more in fines or serve some time for all the antics that he and his attorney did throughout this whole case, and for wasting the taxpayers money by dragging this out for almost a year. My final opinion is this: Treat Mr. Johnston like all the other criminals or treat the other criminals like Mr. Johnston.

conwayville
533
Points
conwayville 06/04/13 - 09:12 pm
0
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on another note

how long do we, as taxpayers, have to put up with governmental employees at every level taking advantage of the fact that we have to pay taxes? They keep wanting more money because they say their costs are going up; yet as a businessman myself, sometimes you have to make ways to reduce your overhead because our customers don't need to be supporting our vacations, among other things.

As I mentioned before, the amount of money being squandered by, at the very least the city level, is unbelievable. There is talk of people out east of town sending their family on vacation-on taxpayer money. I don't know how much truth there is to it; but I would not be the least bit surprised! Problem is that the whole deal gets swept under the rug because if it's not then someone loses their precious government job and somebody gets in trouble....and that's the very LEAST of their concerns. We're talking about lawsuits, blackmail, even some folks using other government agencies to "pick on" certain people because they know too much. You get the idea-well hopefully.

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