Vote: Johnson still Northumberland County warden

SUNBURY – Calls to fire Northumberland County Prison warden Roy Johnson went nowhere Wednesday.  During the prison board meeting, Northumberland County Commissioner Vinny Clausi made a motion to fire Johnson.  A vote was taken, but because county district attorney Ann Targonski was not in attendance, no actions could be made.   The vote was 3-2, with Targonski absent.  Passage of a motion is only admissible with four out of six votes.

Clausi was joined by commissioner Stephen Bridy, and county sheriff Robert Wolfe, who voted to terminate Johnson.  Commissioner Rick Shoch and county controller Chris Grayson voted to keep the warden.

Shoch says, although it was not on the meeting agenda, Clausi’s motion was no surprise, “When you don’t do exactly what Vinny Clausi wants you to do, you end up on his list.  I hope the majority of this board will have the backbone to make their decision, not based off what is easy, but based off what facts are given and what information is able to be backed up.”

In addition to Shoch and Grayson, there were several representatives of local groups who spoke out in favor of Johnson’s tenure at the prison.  It included Mary Ann Huber of the Rita House, a transitional home for women, who says she worked with Johnson on a mural painting project for both male and female inmates at the prison, “Working with the warden was just wonderful.  He came with us to Pike County on two occasions to see their facility and that is where the idea of the murals came from.  He has been very positive about wanting to promote these activities to give the inmates something to do.”

As for Johnson, he contends that there are many positives at the prison and continues to find accusations against him baseless, “I know when I have been given specific instances that needed to be looked into, I have done so and there has always been a rational explanation into any of the things I have done or my staff has done.  As far as my feelings, I will keep them out of this.  I try to maintain a professional demeanor, it is all part of the job and it is stuff I have to deal with.  Although, it would be easier to deal with if I knew what I actually supposedly had done wrong.”

Neither Clausi nor Bridy were present in person during the meeting, but attended via phone call.  They have said they are not pleased with the warden, and it was in January that they called for his resignation.  As for Wolfe, he says, “My personal reasoning for my yes vote was because I believe we are in need of a change, and change starts at the top, and with change at the top comes leadership at the top.  My decision was not a spur of the moment thing, I have agonized over this.” (Sarah Lagerman)

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