Citizens concerned with number of special meetings called

OSCEOLA COUNTY -- By a vote of 4-1 Osceola County road commissioners extended the employment of the managing engineer for the second time since his arrest on a felony perjury charge Aug. 2.

Road commissioners voted 3-2 during a special meeting last Friday to allow the road commission managing engineer, Cliff Youngs, to continue overseeing current projects until Aug. 16, but discontinue handling day-to-day administrative work.

At another special meeting Monday at 7 a.m., the commission unanimously appointed Road Commission clerk Bill Huss to carry out the day-to-day duties as interim manager while still performing his duties as clerk.

Road Commission chairman Alan Gingrich said the appointment to fill the managerial duties was not carried out during the Friday meeting because the item was not on the agenda, upsetting citizens concerned about the number of special meetings needed to solve the matter.

The commission had planned to revisit the topic by calling a special meeting Aug. 17 with new information gained from Youngs’ pre-trial conference set for Thursday morning. When the conference was rescheduled for Aug. 30 at 1:30 p.m., another decision was required to fill the engineer’s duties from Aug. 16 until the new court date.

“Anything we thought we might find out between now and next Thursday we will not find out, so we have to decide what we’re going to do about an engineer after next Thursday,” Gingrich said.

Youngs, 42, of Big Rapids, was arraigned on a felony perjury charge Aug. 2 in Osceola County’s 77th District Court for lying under oath to a detective during a court deposition in March. The charge is punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Michigan State Police detectives at the Hart post have been investigating “allegations of misappropriated county funds,” according to a press release from MSP. The felony complaint against Youngs states that, during a deposition in the investigation, Youngs lied about ordering road commission employees to fraudulently alter time slips.

Youngs was arrested at the road commission office Aug. 2 and taken to Osceola County Jail. He was released on a personal recognizance bond.

Attorney General Bill Scheutte’s office will handle the prosecution of the case. Due to the close ties between county offices and employees, Osceola County Prosecutor Jim Sims told the Pioneer he requested a special prosecutor to handle the case when the investigation began.

At Thursday’s regular meeting, Gingrich - the only commissioner to vote against the motion - said for Youngs’ safety, he should not continue in his position as engineer for two more weeks.

“My feelings on this are that I agreed to keep Mr. Youngs on until next Thursday because I didn’t want to shut any projects down,” Gingrich said. “I think until this is over, it’s better that he doesn’t have any contact or association with the employees or any of the jobs.”

Current jobs Youngs is overseeing include three bridge projects and a project on Mackinac Trail in LeRoy.

Commissioner Don Williams cited the expense of recent bridge projects Youngs is involved with and said the best fiscal decision would be to keep Youngs on as engineer.

Commissioner Don Lewis made the motion to extend Young’s contract until the end of August.

“That way we can decide (what to do about the engineer’s position) at next month’s meeting and we don’t have to have any special meetings,” Lewis said.

Following the approval of the motion, commissioners realized the approval would still require a special meeting, as their next regular meeting is not until 7 p.m. on Sept. 13 at the road commission office, located at 4737 Makwa Drive in Hersey.