Scandal continues in West Philadelphia’s 190th State House District as state Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell was charged with stealing over $500,000 from her own nonprofit organization, following the previous occupant of that seat, Vanessa Lowery Brown, resigned in last December after being convicted on bribery charges.
In September, agents from the state Attorney General’s Office visited Democratic ward leaders in the district, to question them about the March 12 special election won by Johnson-Harrell.
Investigators showed checks from Johnson-Harrell’s campaign, written to ward leaders for election day get-out-the-vote efforts, and asked how they were cashed. Almost every ward leader either refused to comment or declined the signatures on the checks.
“Somebody signed my signature,” Pete Wilson, who leads the 6th Ward, said. “I know it wasn’t my signature.”
“They’re not giving us any details at this time,” said Bernadette Wyche, leader of the 24th Ward. “I can’t say anything.”
Allegations revealed that Johnson-Harrell spent the stolen money on family vacations, designer clothing, furs, and personal bills and her Legislature bid.
After the charge, Johnson-Harell recently revealed that she would be resigning.
With the 66.5% of the vote, Johnson-Harrell won the March 12 election of the 190th District. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that more than $85,000 was dumped into her six-week campaign.
Still, Johnson-Harrell lent her campaign $15,000. Building trades unions gave her thousands more, the largest chunk—$10,000—from Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Johnson-Harrell was the party’s third choice, and her bid was tinged with controversy due to a history of financial troubles, including a shuttered business and a personal bankruptcy filing, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.