Longtime Michigan Hispanic/Latino Panel’s Head Faces Charges

Jun 26, 2017

Maria Louisa “Marylou” Mason, woman who ran Michigan’s Hispanic/Latino Commission for nearly 30 years is accused of stealing public money earmarked for a proposed statue of civil rights and farm labor leader Cesar Chavez.

Mason, who retired from state government work in 2015, was ordered last week to stand trial on embezzlement charges after waiving her right to a district court review of the evidence.

An investigation by Michigan State Police showed that Mason embezzled more than $73,500 given to the state to build a Cesar Chavez Memorial statue in Lansing, the state Attorney General’s Office said. That statue has not yet been built.

Mason, of Williamston, remains free on bond. She is charged in Ingham County Circuit Court with embezzlement of between $50,000 and $100,000 and embezzlement by a public official of more than $50, The Lansing State Journal reported (http://on.lsj.com/2svz3d3 ).

Robert Easterly, an attorney for Mason, declined to comment last week on the allegations or the investigation.

A message left Sunday for Easterly was not immediately returned.

The funds allegedly embezzled by Mason included both state appropriations and private donations.

Investigators said Mason arranged to have the money transferred to a nonprofit and a local community center, then moved it into her personal accounts. They said she used those funds to pay numerous personal credit card bills, along with Mason’s University Club fees and her state and city taxes.

Mason ran the Hispanic/Latino Commission, formerly called the Office on Spanish Speaking Affairs, for nearly 30 years. The commission markets career development services to Michigan’s Hispanic population and provides outreach services, including mental health counseling, to thousands of Latinos, a recent annual report states.

Mason was the first woman to lead the commission and the first Hispanic woman to serve on Lansing Community College’s Board of Trustees.

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Information from: Lansing State Journal, http://www.lansingstatejournal.com