Johnstown to launch internal drug money audit

JOHNSTOWN -- After a busy three-hour city council meeting Wednesday night, the City of Johnstown has decided to launch an internal audit into the way money seized from drug busts is accounted for.

When a police department seizes money during a drug bust, they are required by Pennsylvania law to turn that money over to the county District Attorney's Office.

The DA keeps half of that money earmarked for enforcement of certain drug laws. The other half is supposed to be sent back to the Police Department and kept in an account specifically for drug enforcement.

But, documents first obtained by activist John DeBartola show that for at least a decade the city of Johnstown did not put that money into a separate account. It appears the money went into the general coffers instead.

City Manager Arch Liston, though, said Thursday that the money was still only spent on drug enforcement and police-related expenditures.

Regardless, the city manager told 6 News that the city plans to launch an internal audit to confirm that none of the money seized from drug busts was lost of used for the wrong purposes.

In addition, Liston said the city will reform the way it accounts for seized money. He said he plans to meet with Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan to discuss how exactly they plan to audit the books and how they will account for seized money moving forward.

To complicate matters, the county used to transfer money from the District Attorney's Office to the Police Department by writing a personal check to a city employee and expecting that they would cash it in the right place, according to documents first obtained by DeBartola.

Liston said he has never seen a municipality transfer money between accounts like that.

6 News is working to verify the city's claims that no money was lost or misused in the past decade by submitting Right-to-Know requests and pouring over the city's past ledgers.