$3M mystery: Erie County Clerk of Courts' Office sits on other's money

The Erie County clerk of courts has been sitting on millions of dollars for years, but the money is owed to hundreds if not thousands of people.
Sandusky Register Staff
Nov 6, 2011

The Erie County clerk of courts has been sitting on millions of dollars for years, but the money is owed to hundreds if not thousands of people.

And the bulk of those people have no idea they're entitled to a piece of this $3 million pie, a Register investigation has found.

Since at least the late 1980s, the money has slowly accumulated in an interest-bearing bank account controlled by former clerk of courts Barb Johnson.

Johnson retired from her post last month, shortly before she died from a lengthy illness.

Employees appointed to run the office in her absence provided the Register with new information detailing this long-running system of negligence.

Read more about the money and what the clerk of courts' office plans to do with it in Sunday's Register.



Holy cow...the can of worms is officially open.


 It's a shame that it has taken this long for someone to see the problem. How many people will never see the money that belonged to them because they have passed on. All because someone didn't do the job they were voted to do. Now she has passed and can not be held accountable for the job she has let slide because she didn't know what she was doing.



--> How many OTHER dark SECRETS does this County Hold?




How many OTHER dark SECRETS does this County Hold?


LOTS of secrets in Erie County.


When it is all done where will the unclaimed fund go? Erie county or the DNC?


Where are the checks and balances and who was supposed to be watching the store?  This is so unbelieveable!  Glad to see they are bringing in an auditor to audit the department.  How did all this get by the outside auditors when they were auditing the County?  Three million dollars in her account and no one threw up any red flags?  Someone needs to be held accountable.  I know this was an elected position and maybe something has to be done to make it an appointed position with the County Commissioner and county auditor overseeing this position.  





So let's see, we had all Democrats in the offices, when all this was happening, of commissioner, clerk of courts, prosecutor, auditor and on and on. Sure makes me want to elect another Democrat as president, NOT. It takes a Republican to find out how crooked the present system is.


WOW! It would be nice if Erie county could claim the money, but that won't happen. By the time the owners are located, paid their share plus interest, there probably won't be much left. If there is extra then it will be eaten up by the cost of having workers track down the owners. Now I see why some of the comments in previous stories on this site said she didn't do her job. I didn't know the woman, but it is clear that she should not have been in office. The problem is that when people run for office most voters don't know them and so they just go "eenie, meenie, minie, moe" and mark a box.

Julie R.

Interest-bearing accounts? If that's true SOMEBODY in Erie County sure did LIE --- but it wasn't Barb Johnson.  When the Erie County Common Pleas and Probate Court were playing their high-school thug games --- sitting on the money from a court-ordered invalid scam sheriff sale for over THREE YEARS ---- two years at the Clerk of Courts until Barb Johnson discovered a Cleveland attorney named Jack Turoff never had a court order to transfer the money over to her department to begin with --- and then ANOTHER year back at the Sheriff's Department --- I was told the money had been in NON-INTEREST BEARING accounts.   


 Blame anyone you want. It was her job to see it was returned. NO ONE else. She was just a slacker...

Dick Tracey

Just curious.

Do they have "Occupy Heaven" or A.C.O.R.N. in heaven?



First of all, does it matter? I'm not all that sure that bleeding-heart Dems actually GO to heaven. You have to do more than talk the talk to get there, I understand...

Secondly, while I can't speak for heaven and its activist groups, I can sure tell you that it's pretty obvious Erie County is saddled with them! I mean, LOOK at how long Johnson "served," eh?


Was anyone really surprised that she left a mess like this?  I wasn't!  And I expect they will find even more problems with her bookkeeping. 


Check out Ohio Revised Code 1907.20, Powers and duties of the county court clerk.  Scan down to section D: Any part of the moneys shall be paid by the county treasurer at any time to the person having the right to them, upon proper certification of the clerk.  Why didn't the county treasurer get a little suspicious that no certifications of money owed to people coming before the court were not coming to the county treasuer for payment of a refund?


 Where is the check and balance system set up to keep and eye on this? Maybe there was never one in Erie County.  Twenty years is a long time to look the other way.  County and state officials  should be ashamed of themselves.

Trust is an important factor when it comes to public officials and public money. 


 The people in charge need to bring in the state and audit everything. How do we know that there isn't supposed to be four million in that account?  Sounds like NO ONE was auditing anything. So who knows the correct figure - we only know what we see and we take that as being correct?  Time to clean house of anyone who is part of that office.


Sam Adams:

So are you saying only Republican's go to heaven? Since when were you named God and judged all those that faced their judgement day??


Take this case to the Doctor.
It has constipation of facts
and projectile vomiting of opinions.


Julie R.

The Clerk of Courts office handled the filings of the Common Pleas Court of Judge Maschari for YEARS and YEARS. They now handle the filings of both Judge Tygh Tone and Judge Roger Binette. The Clerk of Courts can NOT distribute money without a COURT ORDER --- so if the Clerk of Courts office has been sitting on $3M of other's money for YEARS and YEARS, wouldn't common sense alone say the PROBLEM was with the COURTS?


if the clerk did not bring this to anyones attention then they would not have known it was there to be distributed.


Why didn't the county treasurer get a little suspicious that no certifications of money owed to people coming before the court were not coming to the county treasuer for payment of a refund?

@ Darkhorse   There are many secrets in Erie County that only a few people know about.


No, I'm not saying only Republicans go to heaven. I'm saying that those who merely "talk the talk" and can't be bothered to also "walk the walk" are unlikely to do so. Political affiliation has nothing to do with that. The subject at hand was, however, some groups on the uber-left and I stayed with the subject.

If you want me to take the opposite tack, though, that's easy enough. I also don't believe for a second that those on the far right who attempt to legislate everybody ELSE's morality are any more likely to be rewarded for the way they've lived their lives than are the hypocrites on the far left who want to redistribute everybody's wealth but their own.

Julie R.

Mikel's comment reads:  If the clerk didn't bring this to anyone's attention, then they would not have known the money was there to be distributed.

Sorry, but it was NOT the Clerk of Court's job to inform people they were owed money ---- that is something that comes from the COURTS. Once again, the Clerk of Courts could NOT distribute money without a COURT ORDER. It also stands to reason, people in court cases certainly know if they are owed money --- yet NOBODY and not even their attorneys ---- ever complained that the Clerk of Courts (supposedly) was not distributing money on orders from the Court?

Something sure does SMELL here!


When you conduct an audit, the audit outcome is only as good as the information the government entitiy is supplying to the auditors.  I wonder if the outside auditors even knew about the account.  I would like to know who has jurisdiction and oversight of the clerk.  Is there some statue of limitations on the time frame for paying the money back? Andy, who knew what and when?

Julie R.

Back in 2009 when the courts were STILL sitting on the money from a sheriff sale that took place in May 2007 ~ and before I talked to Barbara Johnson ~ I contacted the State Auditor's office. I contacted them only to ask --- if they do audits in a county, don't they ever question why a county is still sitting on money that doesn't belong to the county two years later?  I don't believe she gave me a direct answer to that question -- if she did, I don't remember -- but I do distinctly remember her saying that they had just done an audit in Erie County in 2008.

So if they did an audit in 2008, how did they ever miss THREE MILLION belonging to others sitting in the Clerk of Court's account? Once again, something sure doesn't SMELL right here!

Erie County Resident

The Clerks office has the names of who is owed all this money.

Any chance of getting the list published?

pow wow

   Why didn't Bill Monahgan do something about this years ago? All the County Commissioners knew about the clerk's wrong doings.


 pow wow,

Simple explaination.  Democrats don't turn in fellow Democrats

 But then, Republicans don't turn in fellow Republicans.

Isn't this a great system ? You can't trust either.

Free Speaker

To Julie R.  You have been defending Barb Johnson for years.  Don't you get it?  She was a nice person who apparently talked to you alot BUT she was inept at doing her job for many, many years.  When a case is decided by a Judge then a cost bill is prepared by the Clerk.  If costs were less than expected, then the Clerk is to prepare a check to reimbuse the party or attorney (who ever paid the filing fee).  If the costs were more than the filing fee covered you bill the party.  She did neither.  Yes, she passed her Audits because she ACCOUNTED for any money taken in or paid out BUT her procedures in her operations SUCKED, every one of them except for her being nice.  God people, don't you get it? And Julie R., the Clerk of Courts is the accountant for the courts and she cuts checks---not the judges.  The duties of a Clerk of Courts are outlined in the Ohio Revised Code, you need to read them before you shoot off your mouth.