Audit finds city official Joan Jackson Johnson misused city funds

Michigan

(UPDATE 1/28/2020 6:15 p.m.)– The main concerns for the recent audit were conflicts of interest between Dr. Joan Jackson Johnson and several local groups, and how the money was moved around.

Johnson is the director of the City of Lansing’s Human Relations and Community Services department and she’s currently on paid leave because of this investigation.

Investigators found Johnson’s department gave more than $1.3 million to organizations she was connected to. That money was made-up of federal and city funds and went to more than five nonprofits including One Church One Family, Advent House Ministries, Loaves and Fish Ministries and Connect 4 Kids. These were all organizations where Johnson served as a board member or staff member over the years.

6 News also got copies of contracts between Johnson’s department and these non-profits. The HRCS department signed off on payments from the city’s general fund ranging from $10,000 to $20,000. Those funds allowed the non-profits to get hundreds of thousands of dollars from federal grants from Johnson’s office.

A member of the Michigan Attorney General’s office says they’re still looking over the file from the city and haven’t decided whether or not to investigate.

6 News will continue to update this story with new developments

(UPDATE 1/28/2020 3 p.m.)– Mayor Andy Schor released the following state regarding the audit of Joan Jackson Johnson:

“There is no doubt that Dr. Joan Jackson Johnson has done incredible work on behalf of the neediest in the City of Lansing as HRCS Director for 15 years. However, upon receiving and reviewing the completed forensic audit report, it alleged many improprieties and inconsistencies with our local ordinances, state law, and federal regulations. 

The findings in the report were of such material significance that the City Attorney advised that the City had an obligation to forward them to the proper authorities. At that time, since Dr. Jackson Johnson is still a City employee, she was put on paid administrative leave.

We hope to hear back from those authorities quickly so we can come to a resolution.   

In the meantime, services continue to be met in the City of Lansing. We had a very successful Mobile Food Pantry a week ago, and we continue to serve those in need. 

Nik Tate, the City of Lansing’s Chief Administrative Officer, successfully directed the office on an interim basis, but I am proud to report that Willard Walker, the former Lansing HRCS Director, has offered to manage the department as acting director until the situation with Dr. Jackson Johnson is resolved.

I appreciate Mr. Walker’s offer of assistance and his willingness to help our city.”

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)– As Attorney General Dana Nessel investigates a file related to the City of Lansing’s Human Relations and Community Services (HRCS) director, an audit shows a pattern of city funds being mismanaged and conflicts of interest not being disclosed.

6 News obtained a copy of the audit from the City Attorney’s office, along with two addenda detailing specific claims.

The audit, which covers July 1 2017 through September 30 2019, found multiple instances of “potentially problematic” conflicts of interest involving department director Joan Jackson Johnson. Many of the instances related to local nonprofit One Church One Family (OCOF), an organization that provides low and no-cost housing to those in need. Investigators added the the conflicts went further than OCOF.

Johnson held several positions in OCOF since 2012 including president, vice president and director. The report also lists Johnson’s daughter Johnson Nikki as a title-holding member of OCOF.

The main findings of the audit include:

  • HRCS paid at least $1,380,000 to entities during a time period when the HRCS Director had a conflict of interest with those entities, including OCOF receiving $498,000, and Loaves and Fishes receiving $303,525.
  • HRCS paid at least $86,000 that, ultimately, benefitted entities in which the HRCS Director
    has/had a conflict of interest.
  • Supporting documentation evidences the HRCS Director was made aware, and
    acknowledged her awareness, of the rules, regulations and/or laws regarding conflicts of
    interest prior to her multiple violations.

Auditors found multiple instances during Johnson’s time as a city official where she authorized payments from the City of Lansing to OCOF both directly and through Advent House Ministries, another local nonprofit organization of which Johnson was a board member according to the audit. Investigators found payments totaling more than $1.3 million to entities with which Johnson had a conflict of interest, including OCOF, Advent House and Capital Area Community Services.

Johnson was placed on paid administrative leave in early January. 6 News reached out to Johnson for comment on this story. We have not heard back.

The audit recommended more analysis of Johnson’s financial records to confirm if she used the money properly.

6 News also obtained copies of contracts between the HRCS office and multiple nonprofit organizations listed in the audit. The contracts show OCOF received hundreds of thousands of dollars in city and federal funds through the HRCS office, under Johnson’s direction.

Advent House and OCOF received $20,000 from the City of Lansing from July 1 2017 to June 30 2018. In September of that same year, OCOF received more than $260,000 in funds from a federal grant. The bulk of the money was for operational expenses and rental assistance, according to the contract.

We will continue to follow this story and update it as we learn more.

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