FORT LAUDERDALE — A longtime official of the Broward County Democratic Party has admitted writing checks to himself and making cash withdrawls from the organization’s bank account.
Percy Johnson, former treasurer of the Broward Democratic Party’s Council of Club Presidents, said most of the money went towards office supplies, refreshments and other official business, but he is not exactly sure. He acknowledged some of the funds are unaccounted for.
“There are some irregularities but I laid out money for refreshments and office supplies,” Johnson said in an interview Tuesday. “I did write checks to myself but I think most of those went towards meetings and official business. I have offered to repay any money that is unaccounted for or misplaced.”
Johnson offered his explanation after turning over financial records this week. A committee will examine the records to determine if anything untoward occurred. Sources close to the situation said more than a dozen checks and cash withdrawals have been discovered so far, and the total amount of money in question could be “substantial.”
“I’ve already paid back $140 for one check I wrote to myself,” Johnson said. “It was supposed to be used to buy refreshments for our meeting but I had to leave town and they ended up cancelling the meeting. I realized I needed to put that money back.”
Johnson offered no explanation for the other incidents.
The council’s by-laws require two signatures on checks but most banks will still cash them with just one signature. Bernie Parness, the council’s president, confirmed the repayment but declined to discuss it pending a review by an auditing committee.
“It would not be fair to Percy or the Council of Club Presidents for me to comment until we have all the facts,” Parness said. “We have an audit committee and, until they look at it and inform the club, I can’t comment.”
Parness said the issue would be discussed at the council’s monthly meeting this Saturday, July 9, when a committee will be selected to review the financial records.
Lori Glasser, the council’s immediate past president, defended Johnson.
“I was president for three terms and no one has called me about this,” Glasser said. “The clubs were not paying their dues and Percy had to buy things out of pocket and he was authorized to write checks to himself. This looks like a smear campaign to me.”
The Council of Club Presidents is a political organization comprised of more than 30 top officials of Democratic Party clubs and caucuses in Broward County. They are at the center of grassroots organizing and voter-turnout campaigns, making them vital to candidates seeking political office.
Johnson has been a revered fixture in local politics for years. He has headed and held several positions in the Dolphin Democratic Club. He has also been active with the Broward County Democratic Executive Committee and the Broward County Democratic Black Caucus and is currently vice president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Democratic Club.
He was treasurer of the Council of Club Presidents for the past eight years and did not seek re-election in last April’s election. During the transition, the newly elected officers requested the financial records. When Johnson did not comply, he was sent certified letters demanding the records, but still did not produce them. A vote was finally taken authorizing the council to take all steps necessary to obtain the records.
Johnson began turning over some records several weeks ago at which time he admitted to the cash withdrawals and checks he wrote to himself. The remaining records were handed over this week.
Pictured above is Percy Johnson