Youngs still employed by road commission
HERSEY — Despite a public outcry, Cliff Youngs is retaining his job with the Osceola County Road Commission.
Road commissioners voted 3-2 during a special meeting Friday morning to allow the road commission managing engineer to retain his job with some restrictions. Youngs will be allowed to continue overseeing current projects under his supervision pending the outcome of further court proceedings.
Youngs, 42, of Big Rapids, was arraigned on a felony perjury charge on Thursday 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, Young lied about ordering road commission employees to fraudulently alter time slips.
Youngs was arrested at the road commission office on Thursday 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 Friday’s meeting, commissioners , Youngs and an attorney for Osceola County went into closed session to discuss disciplinary actions for more than a hour and a half, while about 30 audience members patiently waited in the lobby.
When the commission returned, a motion to “place Cliff Youngs on administrative leave without pay, effective immediately” was voted down 2-3. Commissioners John Atkins, Donald Lewis and Alan Gingrich voted against placing Youngs on leave, with commissioners Gary Wemple and Donald Williams voting for it.
A second motion to “remove the manager’s job classification of Cliff Youngs pending court proceedings on Aug. 16, 2012, and allow him to continue as engineer” was approved 3-2. Commissioners Atkins, Lewis and Gringrich voted in favor of the motion.
Audience members expressed their disgust by shouting comments like, “What a joke,” and “You need to stop and think about what you’re doing.”
Gingrich responded to comments by explaining commissioners’ reasoning.
“The only thing Mr. Youngs will be doing is keeping track of these projects that we’ve got to keep going because we don’t have anybody else to keep track of them,” Gingrich said. “The foremen are in charge of the daily operations. Mr. Youngs is going to keep these projects going so they are not shut down. He is not doing any managing.
“If we shut (those projects) down, (the contractors) would still have to be paid. This gives us time to get that straightened out. I don’t know what’s going to happen on the Aug. 16; this could go on (in court) or it could be tossed out.”
Youngs is tentatively scheduled for a preliminary examination at 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 16 in Osceola County’s 77th District Court. Current jobs Youngs is overseeing include projects on three bridge projects and a project on Mackinac Trail.
“Say next Monday or Tuesday we have a problem on a bridge project and have nobody to handle it; we’d shut it down and have to pay that contractor for sitting there and doing nothing,” Gingrich added. “We have got to get that in order and this give us a couple weeks to get that lined up in case we have to do something after Aug. 16 so we can keep our projects going so they can get finished this year. This is why this decision was made.”
Commissioners will hold their next regular meeting at 7 p.m. on Aug. 9 at the road commission office, located at 4737 Makwa Drive in Hersey. A special meeting may be called following Youngs’ preliminary examination for Aug. 17.