Michael Johnson’s assets now in Panama City’s control

Former Panama City employee surrendering more than $1M to city
Panama City leaders are taking the first steps -- to make programs that were recently embezzled from by a former city employee "whole again".
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 8:52 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Panama City leaders are working to build back public trust after the Michael Johnson debacle.

He entered a plea of no contest to grand theft, money laundering, and 19 counts of official misconduct March 9. He’s also surrendering more than $1 million to the city. The total amount will be around $1.6 million.

“I don’t think it could’ve ended any better than this,” Panama City Commissioner Jenna Haligas said.

Panama City Commissioners voted on three resolutions at Tuesday’s meeting.

“One is acquiring the assets that were given up as restitution,” Panama City Commissioner Josh Street said. “Two is going to be liquidating those assets.”

Three is Johnson transferring ownership of his 11 properties to the city.

“From this, I think we’ll see very positive changes to come,” Street said.

Those positive changes are coming in the form of restitution. City leaders said the restitution should make the children, taxpayers, and organizations Johnson took advantage of whole again.

“As this restitution comes, as these homes are sold, that money will be designated to helping to ensure those kids are the proper beneficiaries,” Street said. “This represents the best deal for the taxpayers that was left on the table.”

Johnson stole more than $1 million from the Friends of ASAP. He also stole more than $100,000 from the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency.

City leaders said it’s all about learning and looking ahead.

“We’re finding what controls and measures we can put in place to ensure taxpayer dollars are protected, and that nonprofits receiving city funds also are held accountable to their actions as well,” Street said.

Commissioners said Johnson’s liquidated assets will be put to good use by helping local children who need it most. City officials said they’ll implement ways to keep a closer watch on how those dollars are used in the future.

The restitution should also help fund the forensic audit that’s still underway.

Johnson faces 8 years in prison.