Lincoln administrator placed on leave
Lincoln County's administrator has been placed on administrative leave with pay and is under investigation by authorities.
Lincoln County Commissioner K.K. Matthews confirmed that Judy Johnson, who has served as county administrator since 2009, was placed on leave. He could not say why, citing personnel issues.
Commission President Charles Vance would not confirm that Johnson had been placed on leave.
However, he did say that one commission employee was placed on paid administrative leave on Friday to "ensure the integrity" of an ongoing investigation.
"We're not saying that the person is guilty or innocent," Vance said.
Johnson makes about $39,000 annually as county administrator.
Johnson could not be reached for comment. Her attorney, Jack Stevens, a Lincoln County prosecuting attorney for 16 years, hotly denies any wrongdoing on her part.
Stevens added that political factions in the courthouse that are trying to get Johnson "terminated" are targeting his client.
"My client and I believe this is politically motivated," he said.
Stevens claims some county officials recently campaigned on the premise that they would fire Johnson if they were elected.
Although he would not specifically identify the individuals, both Matthews and Vance ran for seats on the county commission during the last campaign.
Two commissioners were vying for seats because Vance was running to fill the unexpired term of Thomas Ramey Jr. Ramey pleaded guilty to making a false statement to an FBI agent to cover up his role in an election fraud case.
Commissioners unanimously voted on Thursday to authorize the president to place employees being investigated for wrongdoing on administrative leave, Commissioner Charles McCann said.
However, McCann would not confirm that Johnson had been placed on leave. He would also not say what exactly was being investigated.
"We're looking into some issues," McCann said.
However, he did confirm that State Police and the Lincoln County prosecuting attorney's office were investigating issues in the commission's office.
"The commission has not taken any official stance on this investigation," he said.
Commissioners are looking at Johnson's time cards, Stevens said.
"They (commissioners) seem to believe there are some irregularities in her time cards," he added.
However, Stevens said he has also reviewed Johnson's time sheets and that he has found nothing that leads him to believe there was any inappropriate behavior by his client.
Stevens also questions the method used to suspend Johnson. Commissioners requested that the prosecuting attorney send a letter to State Police asking for an investigation into Johnson's time cards, he said.
Commissioners then used the investigation, which they asked for, as a reason to place Johnson on administrative leave, Stevens said.
"They (commissioners) set up their own grounds to suspend her," he said. "That's pretty dubious."
Stevens believes Johnson will be cleared of any wrongdoing. He added that he and his client are ready to take legal action if she were to be fired.
"If they terminate her, we're absolutely prepared to file a lawsuit for wrongful termination," Stevens said.
Lincoln County is no stranger to claims of political intrigue.
Last November, U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston sentenced Ramey to 21 months in a federal penitentiary.
Ramey pleaded guilty to a single charge of making a false statement to a federal agent.
Ramey admitted to lying to cover up his role in altering about 20 absentee ballots.
Former Lincoln County Sheriff Jerry Bowman and former County Clerk Donald Whitten were also involved in the scandal.
Bowman was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison, along with three years probation for falsifying more than 100 absentee ballot applications for voters who had no legal basis to vote absentee.
Whitten was sentenced to one year and six months in prison and three years probation after pleading guilty to making a false statement.