The Washtenaw County prosecutor’s office arraigned three of Michigan Public Media’s former employees yesterday on felony charges of embezzlement.
Michigan Public Media is owned and operated by the University.
Former deputy director Michael Coleman is being charged with one felony count for allegedly embezzling company funds.
The charge, which specifies the amount embezzled to be between $1,000 and $20,000, could land Coleman a sentence of one to five years in prison in addition to a possible fine of $10,000 or three times the amount embezzled.
The prosecutor’s office also charged former development director Justin Ebright and former account executive Jeremy Nordquist with one count of felony embezzlement each.
Ebright and Nordquist have also been charged with conspiracy to embezzle, a charge which carries a sentence of five years in prison and a $20,000 fine or three times the amount of the embezzlement, whichever is greater.
All three men have been released on bond. A preliminary examination of Coleman will take place on March 29. Ebright and Nordquist will be examined on April 12.
Their arrests stem from a criminal investigation the Department of Public Safety began in November.
Donovan Reynolds, former director of Michigan Public Media, sparked the investigation by notifying DPS of suspicious activity related to “on-air messages on behalf of businesses and organizations,” according to a statement released by the media organization.
Reynolds resigned from his position March 1.
He is not suspected of wrongdoing, University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said.
Steve Schram, a former executive at Infinity Broadcasting’s Detroit affiliates, was named as Reynolds replacement Wednesday. Schram has 30 years of experience in broadcast media.
Timothy Slottow, the University’s chief financial officer, said an audit the University launched on Michigan Public Media’s finances because of Reynolds’s concerns.
The audit discovered that the radio station incurred more than $50,000 in losses related to bonuses, purchasing cards and in-kind trades that did not benefit the station.
The charges date back to Jan. 1, 2000, with the most serious incidents occurring in 2004 and 2005, DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown said.
University officials condemned the unlawful activity.
“Such occurrences are unacceptable,” Slottow said.
To combat any unlawful activities in the future, the University has initiated an internal review to detect problems and correct them.
Fred White, a University benefit internal consultant, has been appointed to oversee the station’s finances until the investigation is complete.
“The recently discovered problems with financial controls are unacceptable and do not reflect our core values,” University President Mary Sue Coleman said in a statement released yesterday.
“I am reassured by the fact that the University leadership acted immediately upon discovering this information, and that a thorough audit has been conducted to identify and correct all the problems,” she said. “We will take every possible step to ensure this will not happen again.”