Thursday, September 3, 2009

Maricopa County sheriff’s detectives want to talk with embattled Montgomery College President Brian K. Johnson about an outstanding warrant that would land him in jail if he returned to Arizona.

Capt. Larry Farnsworth said the department is looking at Mr. Johnson, who is accused of owing at least $12,000 in child support in Maricopa County, Ariz., and confirmed the warrant is still active in that state.

“I’d love to convince him to come back,” Capt. Farnsworth told The Washington Times. “I’m happy to make him a resident of our jail.”

The Montgomery College Board of Trustees is expected on Thursday to decide the fate of Mr. Johnson, who has been accused of mismanagement and excessive spending. College officials have said Mr. Johnson is regularly absent from the office and has not attended meetings with key politicians, including Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

According to the sheriff’s Web site, Mr. Johnson is listed as one of the county’s “deadbeat parents.” The site asks for information regarding his location and says an arrest warrant was sent to a Pennsylvania address of the college president and his wife in October — after Mr. Johnson sold the home, according to property records.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that a bench warrant had been issued but that Mr. Johnson had paid the sum.

Maricopa County sheriff’s officials said Wednesday afternoon they had no information indicating the debt had been satisfied and that the warrant was still active.

“We’d be happy to put him in jail,” Capt. Farnsworth told The Times. “We’re an equal opportunity arrester.”

Capt. Farnsworth said Mr. Johnson could not be extradited from Maryland based on the warrant.

“It’s not that we don’t want him, but once he’s out of state we can’t touch him,” he said.

After numerous detailed messages were left on his personal cell phone, Mr. Johnson answered Tuesday only to say he would not be commenting on the situation before hanging up on a reporter. No one answered the door at his address in Rockville, and a reporter who visited the college was told he was not in his office.

Mr. Johnson, who previously served as vice president of student and community services at Mesa Community College in Mesa, Ariz., began working at Montgomery College in February 2007. The school has campuses in Rockville, Germantown and Takoma Park/Silver Spring and is Maryland’s largest community college. According to his contract with the school, Mr. Johnson was hired at a salary of $220,000 annually.

Mr. Johnson also held the position of chief executive of the Allegheny campus of the Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania.

Maricopa Superior Court records list three cases dating back to 1997 involving child support issues with two different women. The records also show that twice in the past two months Mr. Johnson updated his contact information with the court.

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Detective Aaron D. Douglas said that while the $12,000 Mr. Johnson owed only ranked him at 145 of the 1,200 “deadbeats” listed on the sheriff’s Web site, it was still a hefty sum.

“Depending on his income during the time they agreed upon whatever amount, if he lost his job $12,000 could feel like $12 million,” Detective Douglas said. “If he ended up getting great raises, $12,000 might be a checkbook away.”

The warrant became an issue last week, when someone draped a large banner across fencing near the Rockville campus announcing the unsatisfied Arizona debt. The banner was hung a day after faculty members voted no confidence in Mr. Johnson’s leadership.

Elizabeth Homan, a college spokeswoman, said Mr. Johnson’s employment is determined by the Board of Trustees, which issued a statement Friday regarding its vote of no-confidence.

“The Montgomery College Board of Trustees is aware of the concerns raised by the faculty about the leadership of President Brian K. Johnson. As the governing body for Montgomery College, please be assured that we take these concerns seriously,” said board Chairman Michael C. Lin. The board declined further comment.

Mr. Johnson responded to his colleagues by e-mail Friday discussing his role as, “a position of stewardship, standing accountable for the well-being of the larger organization.”

“I will respond to specific questions and concerns in an appropriate manner in the near future,” he wrote in the e-mail.

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