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UPDATE: No comment from council on FBI investigation into Joan Jackson Johnson

Posted at 5:33 AM, Feb 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-11 06:48:01-05

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Attorney General's Office handed over its investigation into Lansing's former director of human relations and community services, Joan Jackson Johnson to the FBI.

A spokesman for the Attorney General's Office told FOX 47 the investigation was handed over to the FBI because Jackson Johnson is accused of possibly mishandling federal grants.

Jackson Johnson retired suddenly over the weekend, after being on paid administrative leave for about a month.

She is accused of giving city money to charities she was connected to and failing to disclose the conflict of interest.

The Lansing City Council held a meeting Monday night, remaining tight-lipped about Jackson Johnson. Members told FOX 47 News they had no comment while the investigation was underway.

But those close to her say she deserves to be able to retire.

"She certainly deserves a rest. But I also think she deserves to go out with dignity," said former Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.

Bernero hired Jackson Johnson as the city's director of Human Relations and Community Services in 2006.

"She's worked hard for a lot of years. She's worked tirelessly on behalf of the least among us," said Bernero.

Jackson Johnson oversaw the distribution of millions of tax dollars during her 13 years with the city.

"I never saw her take one thing. I never saw her put her needs before anyone else's. I saw her give unselfishly to this community," said Bernero.

Much of the money goes to local charities such as the Advent House. Director Susan Cancro said she has mixed feelings about Jackson Johnson's retirement.

"Joan Jackson Johnson brought with her job an experience working with those in poverty that very few people in public office have," said Cancro.

For now, a familiar face will head the department.

Mayor Andy Schor said in a statement former Human Relations and Community Services Director Willard Walker is now the acting director.

"It's never easy when you have a major change. That doesn't mean that's a bad thing. With every change there's an opportunity," said Cancro.

Bernero said he expects Walker to make some changes.

"They'll have to put in some additional controls because maybe things were a little loose, and maybe there should be more added layers of protection and oversight," Bernero said.

However, he said she has the right to be presumed innocent.

"People have the right, everybody, but especially somebody like Joan who has given and given and given has the right to be presumed completely innocent. When there has been no proof otherwise and I, I frankly resent a little bit of some of what I think was a rush to judgment."

Jackson Johnson was not facing any criminal charges as of Monday.

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