Former Osceola County Road Commission manager found guilty of perjury

SWORN INTERVIEW: Michigan State Police Det. Troy Fellows reads a transcript of his 2012 interview, which is the subject of the perjury case against Cliff Youngs. Defense attorney Jason Elmore (left) and Gregory Townsend, a prosecutor from the Attorney General’s Office (right), read along. (Herald Review photo/Whitney Gronski-Buffa)
SWORN INTERVIEW: Michigan State Police Det. Troy Fellows reads a transcript of his 2012 interview, which is the subject of the perjury case against Cliff Youngs. Defense attorney Jason Elmore (left) and Gregory Townsend, a prosecutor from the Attorney General’s Office (right), read along. (Herald Review photo/Whitney Gronski-Buffa)

REED CITY — Former Osceola County Road Commission manager Cliff Youngs was found guilty of one count of perjury on Monday.

Jurors returned to Osceola County’s 49th Circuit Court on Monday to finish deliberating after being released on Friday due to power outages in the area. On Friday, they spent about six hours working on the verdict, once asking Judge Scott Hill-Kennedy for instructions on how to proceed with a deadlock. They returned Monday morning and spent another two hours in the jury room before delivering the verdict.

Youngs remains free on bond — Hill-Kennedy said he would allow Youngs to remain free until his sentencing because the crime was not violent — and he was instructed not to have any contact with witnesses or employees of the Osceola County Road Commission.

Youngs was charged with perjury after allegedly lying under oath during a sworn interview with Michigan State Police Det. Troy Fellows in March 2012. Youngs was interviewed by detectives investigating claims that he had altered time cards for road commission jobs to retain extra funds from project grants, including a FEMA grant given to the county in 2009 to clean up tornado damage.

During the trial, several road commission employees, including foreman Gerald Nelson, testified against Youngs, saying he instructed them to change time cards to apply grant funding to projects that weren’t covered under the grants. Youngs took the stand in his own defense, denying the claims and saying he only asked them to change the way they documented equipment usage on projects. He said a misunderstanding about those instructions lead to timecards being changed without his knowledge.

In closing arguments on Friday, Gregory Townsend, a prosecutor from the Attorney General’s Office, told jurors they had to decide who they believed.

“The bottom line in this case is that somebody’s not being truthful,” he said. “There’s no misunderstanding. He either ordered these people, his employees, to alter time cards, or he didn’t. … He ran the Osceola road commission, and run it he did. There was no issue of who’s in charge. … Did he really not know what was going on? Were these employees acting alone? I would submit to you that they were not.”

Youngs’ attorney, Jason Elmore, told jurors in his closing statement that Youngs had no incentive to change those time cards and described the road commission workers who testified as “disgruntled employees who don’t understand the system and can’t figure it out.”

“Cliff has stood up twice now and taken oaths and told the exact same story,” Elmore said. “Cliff understood the grant process, the employees didn’t and still don’t. … There’s no charge here regarding larceny or embezzlement, because it was all fine. So why are we here? Some people misunderstood their jobs and Cliff said ‘hit these numbers’ and Gerry went out and made a mistake.”

Elmore was not present on Monday, but his associate, Roger Wotilla, appeared to represent Youngs. Wotilla declined to comment after the verdict was announced, as did Townsend, Nelson, and road commissioner Alan Gingrich.

Perjury carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Youngs sentencing is tentatively set for April 12.