PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Panama City police charged Michael Johnson last week with embezzling $470,000 from The Friends of After School Assistance Program.
“I didn’t suspect anything that he was doing that was illegal,” Panama City City Manager Mark McQueen said.
In February 2021 the Department of Housing and Urban Development issued findings and a concern over Johnson’s management as the Director of Community Development for Panama City and the director of the after-school program.
In Johnson’s criminal case, investigators said he wrote himself checks for nearly half a million dollars over a 10-year period.
They said the first check Johnson wrote on Feb 1, 2012 was for almost $10,000.
Another one, in Nov. 2020, was for more than $37,000. During that time, Johnson received a 13% raise in 2019, increasing his salary to $98,000 a year.
Panama City City Manager Mark McQueen said he does not know how much money Johnson controlled throughout his 18 years with the city. But he said the city recently realized Johnson had complete control of the afterschool programs checking account.
“As we have now found out, he was the only signator on the account for that checking account,” McQueen said. “The board is responsible for executing their policies and procedures on how they manage their funds because that’s a separate organization.”
McQueen now wants to ensure non-profits affiliated with the city undergo annual financial reviews.
“I want to make sure that any nonprofit that’s affiliated with the city renders their financial statements to the city for review and annual review,” McQueen said. “I don’t think that’s unreasonable.”
Johnson is still in the Bay County jail, charged with grand theft. His bond is set at $75,000. But the judge said Johnson must be able to prove the bail money isn’t stolen. He’s also waiting for the court to assign him a public defender.
Johnson denied our request for an interview.