State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, charged with $500k theft, hands in resignation
The West Philadelphia Democrat's resignation, effective Dec. 13, means a special election to fill her seat could be held as soon as February.
One day after being charged with taking more than $500,000 from her own nonprofit, Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell submitted her resignation on Thursday, saying she would leave the Pennsylvania legislature next Friday.
“While I dispute many of the allegations lodged against me, I accept responsibility for some missteps made before I became an elected official,” Johnson-Harrell wrote in a letter to Speaker Mike Turzai. “I am choosing to resign to protect my district, to allow for an orderly election for my successor, and to focus on my defense to these allegations.”
The West Philadelphia Democrat was charged Wednesday with theft, perjury, tampering with public records, and related crimes.
State Attorney General Josh Shapiro said a guilty plea would “be worked out” and Johnson-Harrell faces jail time. She said in a statement after being charged that she would “accept responsibility for any actions that were inappropriate” but that she vigorously disputed many of the charges.
Under state law, Turzai must call for a special election within 10 days of a vacancy, and that election must be held at least 60 days after the speaker calls for it. That means the election to fill Johnson-Harrell’s seat can’t be held until mid-to-late February.
Johnson-Harrell, 53, is accused of moving money from her nonprofit, Motivations Education & Consultation Associates (MECA), into her personal account, about $39,500 of which she donated at different times to her campaign committee, Friends of Movita.
Prosecutors said she spent tens of thousands of dollars on personal bills, online shopping, designer clothing, family vacations, political donations, and more.
She is the second consecutive representative of the 190th District in West Philadelphia to leave the seat after being charged with crimes. Johnson-Harrell was elected in a March special election to replace Vanessa Lowery Brown, who was convicted of bribery and other charges and resigned last December.
“We are deeply concerned any time someone entrusted with a position of public leadership is accused of crimes that impugn the integrity of elected office," Turzai and House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster) said in a statement Thursday. "In light of the actions announced [Wednesday] by the attorney general we appreciate Rep. Johnson-Harrell’s resignation.”
Johnson-Harrell was known for her work to end gun violence, which killed her father, brother, and son.
“I will survive these charges and will continue my work to end the gun violence in our cities,” Johnson-Harrell wrote in her resignation letter, “and to otherwise care for the people I have been fortunate to represent.”
Staff writers Angela Couloumbis and Chris Brennan contributed to this article.