Allegations in the civil fraud investigation surrounded the use of state and federal highway funds to purchase gravel and other materials that ultimately were used for roads adjacent to the park, as well as the park road project, Mark Desotell, former managing director of the Luce County Road Commission, said Friday.
"I'm really sad to see a project like this, which has been a major success for Luce County, be dragged through (the dirt) and diminished," Desotell
said."It's one of the projects Luce County should be very proud of."The investigation concluded that Desotell
was involved in the misuse of funds.He
denied any wrongdoing, but agreed to pay $5,000 in civil penalties, Michael Dettmer, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan said in a press release.Desotell
agreed to pay the penalties to spare the road commission and his
family from the much higher anticipated legal costs to defend against the allegations.Ultimately, Desotell
and the road commission would have prevailed if the case were defended."A lot of people investigated this.It's been going on since the summer of 1997," Desotell, now the managing director and engineer of the Delta County Road Commission, said.
"This is a civil, not a criminal, matter first and foremost.There were no smoking guns here."In 1997, a road commission employee notified MDOT
that federal and local funds specifically directed for paving and reconstruction of county roads were being diverted to parking lots, private drives and other county uses, Dettmer's release said.The U.S. Department of Transportation
, Office of Inspector General and MDOT's
Office of Commission Audits jointly investigated the allegations and determined that federal funds had been misused.The Muskallonge Lake park road project was paid for by roughly $870,000 in federal and state highway funds, with the remaining $330,000 in local funds.Desotell
said the road commission was trying to stretch minimum available dollars.Apparently, the allegations struck at which pot of money various funds were taken from and what they were used for, Desotell
said."All of the money was still allocated to Luce County for use on county roads.And that's where it went," Desotell
said."Certainly, there was no personal gain or private gain for anyone."As the person signing documents on the road commission's behalf, Desotell
was named specifically in the civil investigation, along with the road commission.The U.S. Department of Transportation
jointly fund millions of dollars of highway projects throughout the state each year.The funds are awarded and directed to be used for specific projects, and may not be diverted to other uses without specific approval from the MDOT
or the USDOT
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