Ronald Johnson Files Federal Lawsuit Against Town Of Smithfield, Town Manager, Ex-Police Chief, School Board Members, Others

SMITHFIELD – Johnston County Board of Education member Ronald Johnson has filed a federal lawsuit. The 111-page complaint was filed June 26 in US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

The lawsuit names multiple people and organizations including the Town of Smithfield, Smithfield Town Manager Michael Scott, Human Resources Director Tim Kerigan, Police Lt. Terry West, former Police Chief Keith Powell, Town Councilman Marlon Lee, the Johnston County Board of Education, former school board chairman Todd Sutton, former vice chairman Terri Sessoms, current school board members Kevin Donovan, Terry Tippett, Michael Wooten, Kay Carroll, and chairperson Lyn Andrews. Also named in the complaint is Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle, District Attorney investigator Richard Hoffman, Special Prosecutor Benjamin Zellinger; Angie McLeod, former school board attorney Jimmy Lawrence, David Marshburn, and the Estate of Joseph Preston.

According to the lawsuit, Mr. Johnson says he was hired by the Town of Smithfield in June 2005 as a police officer and became a detective in 2012. He had excellent performance ratings.

Mr. Johnson, who was fired from his job last year as a Smithfield police detective, and censured by the Board of Education, claims multiple violations occurred against him.

During his employment, and with permission from his supervisors and the Town, he ran in 2016 and was elected to the Johnston County School Board. While a school board member, he alleges he determined then school board attorney Jimmy Lawrence was engaged in the sexual harassment of a school board employee. Eventually, Lawrence resigned but blamed Johnson for the loss of his position and began retaliation, the lawsuit contends.

In June 2022, David Marshburn, a political candidate for Sheriff in Johnston County, and Joseph Preston began publishing information on social media, making accusations about and threats towards Johnson that he should resign his position with the Town and school board. The posts included allegations Johnson had engaged in misconduct and violated the law.

The lawsuit contents some of the information posted by Marshburn and Preston could only have come from members of the school board, or its employees, or from the Town and its employees.

After the June 2022 social media posts, the Town launched an investigation into the allegations of misconduct including the improper use of town resources for political purposes. The complaint alleges Johnson was told the investigation was politically motivated and in retaliation for reporting the sexual harassment of the school board employee by the then school board attorney.

Johnson developed anxiety and depression and eventually sought Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the lawsuit alleges. He was denied FMLA and was illegally discriminated against because of his sex and disability, and his opposition to the harassment of the school board employee.

The complaint further contends Mr. Johnson was censured by the Board of Education, based on an incomplete and biased investigation, by school board attorneys, and were adopted in violation of the school board’s own processes and procedures. Regardless, the school board referred the censures to the Johnston County District Attorney for prosecution.

The suit claims “…the focus of the investigation changed several times, and after conspiring with the School Board and its attorneys, Marshburn, Lawrence, McLeod and Preston, all of whom sought his termination from the City and his resignation from the School Board, and after sharing confidential personnel information and personal health information about the Plaintiff with the School Board and the individual defendants, the City terminated him.”

Since his firing, Johnson claims he has been subjected to unconstitutional searches and seizures of his person and property by the District Attorney, who is pursing charges at the request of the school board.

Mr. Johnson is being represented by attorneys with the New South Law Firm in Carrboro and Charlotte, NC.



  1. So glad RJ is doing this. I hope he wins too. Kevin Donovan is a big disappointment on school board along with the other cronies that conspired together. The other defendants have to face their lies now. We will see how this goes.

    • Mr. concerned813, Don’t get your hopes up to soon as we liberal progressive democrats has the backing of the bought and payed for Biden DOJ and we are being coached on how to put a end to this elected peace of work Ronald Johnson. You will be seeing how bought and payed for George Soros Judges and DAs are going to put a concrete block on the scales of blind justice here in your thought to be Conservative Johnston County!!! All of you “Good Ole Boys’ that really thought this isn’t a two tier justice system where democrat’s are protected and only republican’s go to jail in Johnston County are about to get caught up in a nightmare!!! We Democrats have put the fix in and you Republicans save your time and efforts by staying at home on the next election day!!! If we can’t jail republicans we have boxes of just found last minute ballots that needs to be counted!!! You all enjoy your up coming weekend!!!

    • Way to go RJ! So glad to see you still have your strength and faith. You have many standing behind you, some who also fear retaliation with their own stories of corruption! Best news I’ve seen for JoCo in a long time!

    • Is this your hero? Yeah, seems like a great guy.

      Wonder how many others he tried to extort in his job. Yeah, you should really be sticking up for this guy.

  2. Good for you RJ, go get them! Too many so called good ole boys that need to be knocked off their pedestals. Johnston County is so corrupt it’s sad.

  3. Funny, wrap reports nothing but what Johnson was charged with but nothing about what he is filing a lawsuit for. Nothing more than a political ploy…arrest and indict a political opponent, where have I heard that before. Hitler,Mao, Joseph would be so proud of our political system. WRAL mentioned extortion of a former candidate Devan Barbour….is that as in “ fire the prosecutor or you won’t get any money”…. sounds familiar.

  4. I just hope we can get all this nonsense concluded in a fair manner and move on. The black eye of the school board continues.

    • I completely agree. It’s sad that this kind of stuff happens at all, but especially on the school board. This county should be better than this.

  5. Crying in his milk because he, according to sworn testimony, violated several rules of being a council member and attempting to slander other member’s names by false accusations. It was RJ who texted messages of a sexual nature during a council meeting! Be sure your sins will find you out…..

  6. My God, these mini-MAGAs are just beyond delusional. People say leaders don’t matter. Well, Trump leads you for 4 years, people like Kari Lake and this clown can’t control their megalomania, and want to be Donnie Jr like they are some worldwide phenomena. The level of grandiosity, narcissism and self-delusion is astronomical! Big boy is going to sue like he’s Trump Inc. Incredible. But when your top-level leaders do this, the small fish follow suit. Bad precedent. Thankfully, being that he is like 1/1000th of certified nobody Kari Lake, he will flame out and be forgotten by history, local or otherwise. Maybe some news clippings of him will end up in a time capsule that our great-grandkids will die laughing at when they try to absorb that people like this actually happened. And we enabled it.

    • Show us where Trump hurt you honey. This is Johnston County. A President that has been gone for 3 years cannot hurt you and has not one thing to do with our little county. Grow Up.

      • Rocky Mount, you may want to check on the influence of that 900k rip off by the Berger Boys, with some help from the other head of criminal head of the GOP. Washing money via shady exchanges and how that relates to the unlawful confiscation of voting machines, specifically relating to foreign influence. From there you will see how Trump sold the soul of the GOP to his gambling buddies in China

  7. School system & Law enforcement been failed us all , when he stepped in to actually help that’s when y’all wanted to go against him yeah we all have our wrongs but come on he was way better than what we had before 😏 y’all so quick to bash and send negativity like we all not human . Shout out to you RJ & go ahead and claim that win 💯

    • Can you tell us how he tried to step in and help. If you read the search warrant he doesnt seem like he was helping. He was extorting.

      • Ummm he got the former board attorney to write because he was sexually harassing employees…. That’s one..

        • Now defend RJ on the affair, the recordings and the extortion as a member of law enforcement and the school board.

          • No defense, the affair was wrong and trying to cover it up possibly worse but that doesn’t make him a criminal it makes him human. We’ve had presidents that have had affairs as well as countless other people in this world. As far as “ The recordings” I find it interesting people pay more attention to him recording than they do a sitting board member telling school employees to hide money from commissioners, seems like “ killing the messenger” not the message. Extortion? That has yet to be proven. Perhaps he did perhaps he didn’t I don’t know and neither do you. Unfortunately this country has changed into a “ guilty” until proven innocent society. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. It’s not like they found cocaine, blackmail or bribes like some elected officials.

  8. This is his new job now. He will never go away. True narcissism. Just glad this deeply troubled man is no longer a detective or in a position of influence over our children.

  9. Ron’s like Trump, not one of them and exposes their bs. You’re the people’s champ. Prepare to be tarred and feathered as they, nor the left sheep, will have any of this.

  10. Do ya’ll really have any personal experience with him? I for one do, my daugther was he’s student when he was a professor at JCC. She learned a lot from him and gained a friend as well. He advacated for his students and was a great professor. Say what you want but he was really all about looking out for the kids of JOCO.

  11. To the fool who nomenclates him or herself as ” biden won”, you are indeed evil and stupid if you support the worst prez in history, 2nd to only Obama. You should leave this country and move to China and be with your like minded brethren who are in the process of trying to destroy the USA. If you are sane, have a soul and believe in God, you will not defend this liberal, woke ideology that is an abomination to the Creator. Time to turn, so you don’t burn!

    • If you think Obama and Biden are worst Presidents than Carter, Andrew Johnson, Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, James Buchanan, and Warren G Harding you clearly are clueless. Then again you probably have never heard of them.

      • Nice butchering of the English language. How old were you during the Carter, Johnson, Hoover and Coolidge admins?

  12. Many wars, slavery, and a host of evil have been said to be ordained by God. God allows mankind who is endowed with free will, to make a choice , hopefully the right choice! So stop cutting your nose to spite your face. One humanity, love and respect everyone, treat each other fairly. Open your eyes and your heart….

  13. Are we really still talking about this IDOIT? and how’d we get off topic talking about president’s 🤔 oh that’s right, this is JoCo,

  14. This is heroic! Just when we thought his career was over he pulls his Ace out of the hole. I can’t wait for the Ron Jon revenge tour.

  15. Looking at this comment thread, all of you deserve the circus of a government that you have. Pretentious, hateful, wicked little people with small minds that accomplish nothing but online arguing with strangers… No wonder nothing gets done.

  16. Ronald has been a thorn in our side since he was elected. He fooled many of y’all. Wanna be in his picture when he files for reelection again? Jajaja.

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