PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) – Over 11 properties, formerly owned and seized by former Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Director Michael Johnson, were auctioned to the public on Panama City’s government website.
Johnson allegedly stole more than a million dollars from Panama City over a decade-long period. In November 2022, he was charged with money laundering and 19 counts of official misconduct.
The city opened bidding on Johnson’s properties on August 15 and closed the auction on Tuesday afternoon. Combined, the properties sold for over $1.4 million.
Out of the 11 properties, 10 are currently occupied by tenants. As a result of the auction, the tenants have until April to vacate the premises. They are also given $5,000 to assist with moving expenses.
Commissioners hope that the revenue can be used to mend the wounds from Johnson’s embezzlement scandal, where he stole over $1 million from the city.
“So, all the money that is generated from the proceeds of the auction will go to the friends of ASAP and make that whole again,” said Commissioner Brian Grainger. “However, we went through all of this so that we wouldn’t create other waves in the wake of trying to right what was wrong. We also didn’t want to make more wrongs in the process. So, this is why we’ve offered the extended leases. This is why we’ve offered the $5,000 in moving costs.”
One of the properties already had a buyer prior to the auction; thus making the highest bidder a “backup” buyer. If the original buyer is not able to complete the purchase of the home, the city can void the contract and award the property to the winner of Tuesday’s auction.