Theft of public funds arrests

Former Garden City employees Shannon James, right, and Leslie Johnson have been arrested on felony charges concerning the theft of public funds from the town.

Former Garden City employees Shannon James and Leslie Johnson have been arrested on felony charges concerning the theft of public funds from the town.

The arrests come after a nearly three-month investigation by the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office, Alabama Ethics Commission, and District Attorney’s Office. According to a press release from the Cullman County District Attorney's office, James and Johnson allegedly stole more than $200,000 from the town by forging checks, making fraudulent debit/credit card purchases, and fabricating work time.

James is charged two felony ethics violations, aggravated theft of public funds, and six counts of possession of forged instrument 3rd degree. Johnson is charged with two felony ethics violations, aggravated theft of public funds, and three counts of possession of forged instrument 3rd degree. At the request of the District Attorney’s Office, investigators submitted a bail request. A judge will determine the suspects’ bond amounts.

The Garden City council unanimously voted to relieve Johnson and James as utility clerk and town clerk, respectively at a September 20 meeting. The council did not give a reason for the personnel changes.

At the town council meeting in August, the council placed the office staff on administrative leave after a nearly two-hour closed door discussion. Afterwards, Councilman Michael Black offered a statement from the council saying, “After discussion and advisement from the town auditor, office staff has been placed on administrative leave pending further notice.”

Additional details will be released at a press conference Thursday.

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