Ford Motor Company Fined $225,000 for Cheating Permit Process; Proving Grounds Manager Mike Stoeckler Lied by Omission, Official Says

Back in January, longtime Ford engineer and proving grounds manager Mike Stoeckler flew to from Dearborn, Michigan to deliver an urgent request to Maricopa County planning officials.

The automaker had one 2.1-mile-long track at its Arizona Proving Grounds in Wittman, a small town off the U.S. 60 just northwest of Sun City, but it needed to construct another -- and pronto. Stoeckle wanted the county to issue an expedited permit for the job.

During a meeting with county officials, says Joy Rich, assistant county manager, Stoeckle "said he desperately needed this track built."

The county agreed it would try to speed up the process.

But Ford had already begun construction on the second test track in November of 2010, without bothering to get the necessary permits, Rich says.


In other words, Ford cheated.

Rich says Stoeckle apparently "lied by omission" during his meeting with county officials.

"They knew what they were doing," Rich says. "They made a business decision to do this."

The county worked to help the automaker and scheduled an inspection of the site. Rich says that just before the inspector was to go to the proving grounds at 20715 West Happy Valley Road, a company representative called the county and said "we've got to 'fess up."

Ford admitted it had already built the track, and it was later discovered that several other structures had been built on the proving grounds -- which is leased from the state -- without proper approval. Miffed county officials pressed to penalize the automaker.

Last week, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office announced that Ford had paid a $225,000 fine to settle the matter.

Rich acknowledges that Ford's construction quality wasn't an issue -- the track was built "correctly" and won't require any major changes to ensure it's up to code. The county's Planning and Zoning department gave Ford until June 2012 to get the entire site in compliance or face additional penalties.

Stoeckle didn't return a message left with Ford media contact John Stoll.

We're not sure what Henry Ford would have had to say about cheaters. But his son, Henry Ford II, failed to graduate from Yale because of an infamous cheating scandal. According to Time magazine, Ford II got caught paying another student to write a paper for him.

Cheaters do sometimes prosper, though. Ford Motor Company has performed relatively well during the last few years of economic downturn, even after famously deciding not to accept federal bailout funds