Mount Sterling officials charged with theft in office

Former mayor and current clerk charged Monday

Staff Report


File Photo


File Photo

MADISON COUNTY – Mount Sterling’s former mayor and current village clerk are facing felony charges in connection with Joe Johnson.

According to a press release from the Ohio Auditor’s office, former mayor Charlie Neff was indicted on two third-degree felony counts of theft in office, a misdemeanor count of falsification and a misdemeanor count of dereliction of duty.

Bonnie Liff, the current administrative assistant and utilities clerk for the village, was indicted on two third-degree felony counts of theft in office.

Neff and Liff were served by Madison County Sheriff James Sabin on Monday.

Neff is accused of issuing a check for $16,702 to former village administrator Johnson for sick leave, much more than what Johnson was entitled to.

Neff is also accused of directing Vicki Sheets, the former fiscal officer, to issue a $38,120 check to Johnson, paying him more than he was authorized to receive for vacation and sick leave payout.

In March, Sheets pleaded guilty to falsifying the date on a document that allowed Johnson to obtain around $131,000 in state pension benefits early, before investigators could freeze the account.

The former mayor also is accused of failing to credit 25 percent of village income tax revenue to the village’s capital improvement fund.

Liff allegedly cashed in more sick-leave time than she was permitted to under village policy and more vacation time than she had earned.

In January, Johnson pleaded guilty to multiple felony charges stemming from his four years as administrator. Racketeering, theft in office, theft and falsification of records are among the multiple charges he pleaded to. He is less than two months into a ten year prison sentence.

Johnson is said to have stolen between $724,000 and $750,000 from the village between 2012 and 2016.

The indictments come from the auditor’s office investigation of Johnson, according to the press release.

“When a government employee steals from taxpayers, it’s always an outrage, but there is something especially disturbing in a case such as this, in which village officers are accused of colluding to steal not from strangers, but from their very own neighbors in their small community,” said Auditor of State Dave Yost. “Two former village officials have answered for their misdeeds. Now the courts will determine if others also have done wrong.”

Neff File Photo

Liff File Photo
Former mayor and current clerk charged Monday

Staff Report