Local Obituaries

Reo Johns, former Pike County teacher, principal, superintendent and PVA, dies at 86

Reo Johns, who spent a sometimes-controversial career in public life in Pike County, died Saturday at age 86.

Johns was a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent in the Pike County schools, and he was elected property valuation administrator of the sprawling county in 1981.

He held that job until 1993, when he was selected county school superintendent, remaining in the post until 1998.

Johns also was head of the county housing agency for several years, former county Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford said Monday.

Rutherford said Johns was a capable administrator, a mentor to countless young people and a man whose word was his bond.

"If he told you something, you could rely on it," Rutherford said.

Johns' former students at Caney Elementary School "will always remember your kindness and your encouragement of education for each of us," a woman named Louise Mullins said in a post on the website of Hall & Jones Funeral Home, which handled the funeral service for Johns on Monday.

Johns came under criticism in the late 1980s, when an investigation by the Lexington Herald-Leader found that Johns and staffers shortchanged county schools and government of millions in tax revenue through poor property-tax assessments or by leaving property off tax rolls.

Johns insisted that his assessments were accurate, but state officials later targeted Pike County and 24 others for reassessments.

After Johns left the PVA office to become school superintendent, even foes acknowledged that he made improvements his first year, including boosting morale and communication among teachers.

He faced controversy in that job as well, however, including over spending decisions, and jobs and raises for Johns' supporters, his relatives or the relatives of top advisers.

He denied using jobs to make political payoffs.

Johns resigned unexpectedly in May 1998, citing health reasons.

At the time, the district faced financial problems, and state and federal authorities were investigating Johns in connection with the sale of a former elementary school for use as a juvenile treatment center.

Investigators looked into whether Johns or his son Barry were involved in the transactions or benefited from inside information, according to a report at the time. The investigation ended with no criminal charges.

However, the state took control of the Pike County schools' finances to correct problems soon after Johns quit, and state officials accused three board members of rubber-stamping alleged abuses by Johns.

Two of the three quit, and a third was suspended for eight months.