By Elgin Jones and Sharon Aron Baron EJones@SFLTimes.com
An official with the Broward County Democratic Party has been arrested and charged with stealing from the party organization.
Percy Lee Johnson, 41, was arrested on Wednesday on a single count of Grand Theft, a third degree felony.
Johnson is the former treasurer of the Broward County Democratic Party’s Council of Club Presidents and is accused of misusing the organization’s funds by writing at least $2,195 worth of unauthorized checks to himself and a relative.
Johnson was scheduled to surrender to authorities in June but prosecutors delayed the charges to continue their investigation.
Sources close to the investigation said the surrender was postponed while prosecutors determined if Johnson has any pending cases or prior arrests. They also sought to examine other bank records.
“It’s been a long time coming.” Said former Council of Club President’s Bernard Parness.
The Council of Club President’s is a political organization comprising more than 30 top officials of Democratic Party clubs and caucuses in Broward County.
Johnson, who served as treasurer for eight years, did not seek reelection during April 2011. The newly elected officers requested the financial records and when Johnson was slow to turn them over, the group threatened legal action.
“When we took over the books in 2011, we saw discrepancies in the account,” said Parness. “We turned it over the to the Fort Lauderdale Police to investigate.”
Some of the checks in question were written between 2008 and 2010, the largest one being for $220. Many do not indicate what they were used for, and two were issued to Johnson’s sister for $40 and $60 for “consultant work.”
The funds were repaid but some of the council’s board members wanted Johnson to resign other positions he held in both the Broward County Democratic Party and the Florida Democratic Party. Johnson refused, prompting Parness and other board members to file a criminal complaint with Fort Lauderdale police.
In a previous interview with the South Florida Times, Johnson acknowledged writing checks to himself and making cash withdrawals. He said at the time he believed the money was used for “official council business.”
Ann Zucker, past President of the Council of Club President’s and President of the Weston Democratic Club said even though Johnson had resigned, he was still actively involved in the Democratic Clubs.
“In February, the Wynmoor Democratic Club held their elections and Diane Glasser couldn’t make it, so she sent Percy as her representative where he ran the election and had people signing ballots.” Said Zucker.
Glasser is the National and State Party Committeewoman and Vice Mayor of the City of Tamarac.
With widespread knowledge of Johnson’s theft, the Kingspoint Democratic Club allowed him to run their election as well. In Coral Springs, the Democratic Club President allowed Johnson and Diane Glasser to bring in their followers to vote for him, resulting what many believed was a sham election, which resulted in the club losing many members. Johnson also led a forum of candidates at the Tamarac Democratic Club this summer and worked for several candidates that were running for office on August 14.
The case against Johnson is pending before Broward Circuit Court Judge David A. Haimes.
Thanks to Elgin Jones – writer for the South Florida Times