• December 12, 2018 | 37° F 50d Haze

From Pride to Shame: State Sen. Bert Johnson Pleads Guilty, Then Resigns

March 02, 2018, 4:16 PM by  Allan Lengel

Sen. Bert Johnson

State Sen. Bert Johnson's website says: "Welcome to my website! I am proud to represent Michigan’s 2nd Senate District, which includes northeast Detroit, Highland Park, Hamtramck, Harper Woods, and all five Grosse Pointe communities."

But on Friday, that pride as a state lawmaker had vanished.

Johnson, 44, of Highland Park, stood in federal court in downtown Detroit and pleaded guilty to placing a "ghost employee" on the public payroll solely to pay off a personal loan. That employee was paid more than $23,000 in taxpayer money.  

Two hours after pleading guilty, he submitted his resignation. 

"Bert Johnson has contacted the Majority Leader and let him know he intends to resign," Amber McCann, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, tells the Free Press in a text message.

"Public officials, especially those elected by the people, cannot treat the people’s money as their own," U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a statement. "The defendant in this case treated taxpayer money as his own, to repay his personal debt. Such an egregious abuse of power will not be tolerated."

Johnson borrowed $17,000 from a woman to help pay his son's tuition at University of Detroit Jesuit High School and his property taxes. He put the woman on the payroll as a no-show employee to repay her.

The plea deal calls for a sentence of six to 12 months. Sentencing is Aug. 7. 

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