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BY SHARON GITTLEMAN
ANN ARBOR – On April 12, Michael Coleman faced embezzlement charges at a preliminary hearing brought before an Ann Arbor judge. Coleman pled not guilty and was bound over for a pretrial hearing scheduled for May 18.
At the time of the alleged offense, Coleman worked for Michigan Radio, broadcasting under the call names WUOM, WVGR and WFUM-FM, all operated by the University of Michigan.
According to Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney Brian Mackie, the complaint filed alleges Coleman converted between $1,000 and $20,000 of food, alcohol or other goods for his own use while Coleman acted as an employee or agent of the University of Michigan.
“The dollar amount will come out at trial,” said Mackie.
Coleman’s attorney Thomas C. O’Brien said Coleman is alleged to have embezzled a little over $3,000.
“Based on a preliminary hearing last week, it appears the prosecution’s theory is that he used a trade account with the aut BAR for personal rather than business use,” said O’Brien. The aut BAR is a gay-owned LGBT bar and restaurant in Ann Arbor.
The alleged offense is said to have occurred between 2000 and 2003, making it difficult to find records to shed light on any charges made against the restaurant account, he said.
O’Brien said the radio station accepted in kind payments for airtime.
“In the case of the aut BAR they received credits toward purchase of food and beverages,” he said. “The claim is rather than using the credits for station related business he used them for his own purposes.”
Keith Gordon Orr, owner of the aut BAR, said he became embroiled in the case in November 2005, when he was approached by a detective from University of Michigan security. Orr was asked to provide copies of contracts, records and receipts related to the radio station’s account.
“I turned over receipts over a four or five year period – probably 100 plus,” said Orr.
Orr appeared at Coleman’s preliminary examination.
“I basically testified about physical evidence,” said Orr.
The charges against Coleman have placed Orr in an awkward position, he said.
“We’ve been strong supporters of Michigan Radio and vice versa, Michigan Radio has been strong supporters of our community,” he said. “I don’t like seeing them having public trouble – and our relationship with Mike Coleman has always been good. I feel like the person caught in the middle of a squabble between friends. You like them both. You don’t really want to be there.”