A Johnson County grand jury recently found no evidence of wrongdoing by Paintsville Tourism after it was alleged that the City of Paintsville and tourism commissioners were misusing tourism funds. According to court documents, insufficient evidence to back the claim was collected during an investigation by the Office of Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
The Attorney General’s Department of Criminal Investigations Investigative Report showed that in June of 2019 their detectives received a complaint from Nancy Price, a citizen of Johnson County and the wife of former Johnson County Sheriff Dwayne Price, regarding the misuse of tourism revenue by city officials. According to the report, Price alleged that for years the Paintsville City Council had been illegally voting to accept tourism money to pay bills during open meetings and called tourism dollars “a slush fund for mayors.” According to the report, Price alleged that Paintsville Tourism Director Josh Johnson had abused tourism dollars for personal use. Price stated, “He (Johnson) takes trips and vacations claiming tourism business but parties when he goes and the taxpayers money pays for everything. He uses tourism vehicles for his own personal use and spends the funds without any approval from his bosses. The tourism takes in over $100,000 a month and has nothing to show for it. It is all spent each month. He spends it like it belongs to him and not the community.”
According to the report, a former manager of the Mountain Homeplace, Russell Honeycutt, backed Price’s claims and presented information to OAG detectives.
Statements made during the investigation by Paintsville Tourism Attorney Jonathan Shaw implied that Honeycutt was a disgruntled former employee who had been laid off for various reasons and was not brought back due to his comments and actions against Paintsville Tourism since, the report said. Honeycutt most notably claimed that Johnson used tourism money to take a vacation, although Shaw argued that the tourism commission approved the work-related trip and that while Johnson did bring his family on the trip, only his individual meal expenses were covered by tourism funds and Johnson paid for the added expense of taking his family, according to the report
After a lengthy investigation into the allegations against Johnson and Paintsville Tourism, it was ultimately determined that insufficient evidence backed the claims made by Price and Honeycutt and the case was dismissed over one year after the investigation began.
In June, a concerned citizen raised questions during an open meeting of the tourism commission concerning what tourism funds were being used for, claiming that there was a lack of attractions and events to draw interest to the town from tourists.