Youngs takes the stand on day three of perjury trial

ON TRIAL: Cliff Youngs took the stand in his own defense on Thursday in Osceola County’s 49th Circuit Court. He is charged with one count of perjury stemming from an investigation into altered time cards at the Osceola County Road Commission. (Pioneer photo/Whitney Gronski-Buffa)

Road commission manager says charges stem from miscommunication

REED CITY — Cliff Youngs never asked anyone to alter or falsify time cards for jobs done by the Osceola County Road Commission. The fact that he was investigated for such and later charged with lying about it is all due to miscommunication, he said in court on Thursday.

In the second day of trial, Youngs took the stand in his own defense.

He is charged with perjury after allegedly lying under oath during a sworn interview with Michigan State Police Det. Troy Fellows in March 2012. Gregory Townsend, a prosecutor from Michigan Attorney General’s Office, is trying the case due to the closeness of the case and potential witnesses to the Osceola County Prosecutor’s Office.

When Youngs became the manager of the road commission in 2006, he began applying for grants to keep the struggling department running – something he said wasn’t done prior to his leadership.

Some of those grants allowed him to apply excess funds to other projects, including routine maintenance, which FEMA representative Lisa Campbell-Shier confirmed with her testimony. All the grants required documentation of the labor, equipment and materials needed to complete a job.

Youngs admitted he never explained how the grants worked to his foremen – including Gerald Nelson, who testified against him on Wednesday – but he instead gave them crew and equipment criteria to meet with regard to the grants.

The only change Youngs said he ever asked his foremen to make was in documenting equipment use. He instructed them to account for the entire time the equipment was at a job site, not just the amount of time it was used.

Still, time cards were changed to make it look as though crews had worked on special projects when they were actually doing routine maintenance, which wrongly applied special project grant funding to that maintenance.

Youngs didn’t change them himself or ask for them to be changed, he said, but he feels the changes resulted from a miscommunication about documenting equipment usage.

More miscommunications came when Youngs was interviewed by Fellows and Townsend, who he said also did not understand the terms of the grants.

“When I was telling (Fellows) how it went, he didn’t think anything I was telling him was true,” Youngs said. “(My story) hasn’t changed a bit. … I know there was a miscommunication because unfortunately Mr. Townsend and Mr. Fellows didn’t understand how the grants were set up or negotiated and had no knowledge of how they were supposed to go. Unfortunately, neither did the foremen or (road commission clerk) Bill Huss.”

Not only did he not ask anyone to change the time cards, there would have been no added incentive to have them changed since the commission already was supposed to retain the excess funds, Youngs said.

“When you hear somebody say we increased hours on time slips, I got no reason to,” he said. “I’m going to get that dollar amount regardless, so there’s no reason to falsify or change time cards.”

Huss also testified on Thursday, saying he had never seen Youngs make changes to time cards and he didn’t believe the handwriting on those admitted into evidence belonged to Youngs. He did, however, identify initialed signatures on all but one time card as belonging to Nelson.

Huss said his secretary, Mary Sackett, pointed out the changes to him on several occassions.

Sackett also took the stand, describing conversations she overheard between Youngs and Nelson in which she believed Youngs was demanding time cards be changed. In his testimony, Youngs said those conversations were about Nelson making changes to the crews and equipment being sent to grant-funded job sites.

Sackett and Youngs were both interviewed during the investigation, a fact that made things uncomfortable and even hostile in the office once Youngs found out, Sackett said. After being interviewed one day, Youngs came back into the office and asked Sackett what she had told detectives, but she refused to answer.

“He said he was going to sue people to keep his good name, and he didn’t want me to be one of them but he would sue me,” she said. “I felt horribly uncomfortable.”

Youngs confirmed Sackett’s testimony, and also testified about trespassing on road commission employee Brett Daily’s property. Daily, who also spoke about time card alterations, testified Thursday about a confrontation that occurred when Youngs showed up at his house after the perjury charge. That incident resulted in a trespassing charge for Youngs, and that case remains open.

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Posted by Whitney Gronski-Buffa

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