HUTCHINS — The mayor of Hutchins, the city secretary, the former public works director and seven other former city employees have been indicted in a public corruption investigation.
Mayor Artis Johnson, 63, is accused of having the finance director deposit a check made out to the city, and then having a check issued in the same amount to the former public works director Ronnie O’Brien, according to court documents.
Johnson faces one count of abuse of official capacity and engaging in organized crime. O’Brien faces one count of engaging in organized crime. All are misdemeanors.
City Secretary Janis Daniels has been indicted on a theft charge involving allegations that she used a city credit card for personal use.
The 16-month probe grew out of an earlier investigation of a former municipal court clerk who was accused of stealing more than $14,000 in fine money. Patricia Morado, 47, told investigators about other city employees who she said were engaged in criminal wrongdoing, said Hutchins police Chief Frank McElligott.
That led to the discovery of Daniels’ alleged misdeeds with the credit card, as well as the uncovering of a scheme involving O’Brien and seven other public works employees to take city property — such as pipes and meters — and sell it to recyclers, the chief said.
“Instead of the money going back into the general fund like it should have been because it was city property, it was going into their pockets,” McElligott said.
The chief said authorities have documented in excess of $25,000 in ill-gotten proceeds that was divided among the employees.
McElligott said he does not believe the mayor received any of the money.
He says Johnson was drawn in because a recycler made a $300 check out to the city. The mayor ordered that the check be deposited into the city’s general fund and that a check for the same amount be issued to the public works director, the chief said.
State Sen. Royce West, who is representing Johnson, proclaimed his client’s innocence and accused McElligott of “besmirching the reputation of the mayor.”
“It’s about a police chief that has pretty much run amuck down there and believes that he has the power to charge people with silly offenses and then get the public to believe that someone after 15 year would engage in conduct like this,” West said.
West said he plans to vigorously defend Johnson.
“I look forward to putting the chief of police on the stand,” he said. “I’m asking people to withhold judgment about Artis Johnson until he’s had his day in court.”
The other former indicted employees are Ian Adams, Don Lawson, Joe Boner, Carl Maxey, Jeremy Plunkett, John Luska and Charlie Chatman.
O’Brien resigned his position as head of public works in late October, according to his resignation letter.
Hutchins, population 5,414, is located nine miles south of downtown Dallas.