Johnson investigation continues: Who is Newsome?

Former village clerk listed in indictment receiving unemployment

By Andrea Chaffin and Jane Beathard -

Who is Madison R. Newsome and what is her connection to the ongoing investigation into former Mount Sterling Administrator Joe Johnson?

On July 28, deputies from Madison and Fayette counties, as well as investigators from the state auditor’s office, searched Newsome’s Washington Court House apartment and confiscated a 2013 Chevy Cruz, living and dining room furniture, a television, washer and dryer and documents.

Madison County Sheriff Jim Sabin confirmed Newsome, 23, is a former Mount Sterling employee.

Newsome is also mentioned in count 16 of a 30-count indictment against Johnson, 46, returned by the Madison County Grand Jury in July. The count accuses Johnson of theft in office and tampering with records in connection with the purchase of the impounded Chevy Cruz.

Johnson allegedly bought the car in March 2015 at Nourse Auto Mall in Columbus for $14,800 and titled it in Newsome’s name. Village money allegedly covered at least $7,500 of the purchase.

In response to a public records request by The Madison Press, current Mount Sterling Administrator John Martin provided Newsome’s personnel file. It provides a glimpse into the woman’s recent past.

She was hired in August 2014 as utilities clerk, earning $10 per hour. Her previous employers were the local Dairy Freeze and the Sterling One Stop where she earned about $8 hourly.

Just a week earlier, Newsome had completed 70 hours of community service in the village for a 2013 drunk-driving conviction in Circleville Municipal Court. Johnson signed off on the community service form, writing “good job” and Newsome was credited for $550 toward court costs and fine for the work completed Aug. 1 through Aug. 18.

Her first day is listed as Aug. 22, 2014.

In January 2015, Newsome received a positive job review from supervisor Bonnie Liff. At around the same time, her pay was increased to $16 per hour.

“There is nothing in the file to indicate why the pay rate was increased,” Martin said in an email on Tuesday.

Two months later, Newsome received a stern rebuke from former Mayor Charlie Neff for personal texts and phone calls made during work hours. Neff also forbid personal contact between Newsome and fellow employee Chris Ladley, saying “break ups are hard, but they cannot interfere with the running of this business.”

He ordered Liff to handle issues pertaining to village water, sewer and streets.

Ladley remains employed by the village, serving as a water operator.

Johnson resigned as village administrator in January this year and Neff resigned a month later. His resignation was announced at the Feb. 8 council meeting.

Days before Neff resigned, Newsome on Feb. 4, 2016 and Feb. 5, 2016 requested payout of $4,224 in unused sick and vacation time. In a letter to Neff, she states she needed money for a family emergency and cited circumstances beyond her control.

Newsome was fired on April 11 during a reorganization of village staff. Her health insurance coverage ceased on June 1.

Martin said she was the only employee terminated as a result of council passing its new strength chart. The ordinance was the new administration’s “correction of several administrative deficiencies,” he said.

“The water clerk position Newsome was filling at the time was never approved by council as an official position,” he said. “Accordingly, when council chose to not authorize a water clerk position, Newsome was left in a position that did not exist on the staffing bill of the village.”

She continues to receive unemployment compensation to the tune of $314 per week, Martin said.

Johnson is charged with theft in office, theft, money laundering, tampering with records, failing to file personal income taxes and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

He is accused of stealing at least $600,000 in village funds between 2012 and 2016.

Johnson remains in at Tri-County Regional Jail under $500,000 cash or surety bond. If the former administrator manages to post bond, he will be under house arrest at his 3203 Camba Road home near Jackson.

The case remains under investigation by the state auditor. Additional arrests are possible.

Former village clerk listed in indictment receiving unemployment

By Andrea Chaffin and Jane Beathard

Andrea Chaffin can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619 or via Twitter @AndeeWrites.

Andrea Chaffin can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619 or via Twitter @AndeeWrites.