The money was initially intended for a Romney sheltered workshop that serves some Hampshire special education students. Instead, Mezzatesta had much of the money diverted to volunteer fire departments and Capon Bridge Library in Hampshire County.
"I reiterated the findings of our audit team that $35,000 of that grant was misappropriated," Hopkins said after testifying Friday. "They're going to have to pay it back."
Schultz questioned Hopkins about a letter sent to the state Department of Education from Hampshire schools Superintendent David Friend, asking Hopkins for permission to redirect the grant money. The letter was faxed from Mezzatesta's office at the Capitol. Friend's signature on the letter doesn't match his signatures on other documents. Hopkins was asked about the discrepancy.
"I told them I'm not a handwriting expert," Hopkins said.
David Pancake, executive director of the Hampshire County Economic Development Authority, also spoke to school board members about the $75,000 grant. The grant money was funneled through the development authority before being sent to the fire departments.
"I have never felt there was a problem with the way that money was spent," Pancake said Friday afternoon.
On Tuesday, a special Hampshire County grand jury indicted Mezzatesta on a misdemeanor charge that he "knowingly and intentionally" lied on a affidavit that he gave to the Ethics Commission last year.
In the sworn statement, Mezzatesta told the commission that he never solicited state education grants for Hampshire schools.
Last year, Mezzatesta and his wife were convicted of destroying and altering legislative computer records at the State Capitol amid a cover-up. Mary Lou Mezzatesta admitted that she dictated a phony letter to the Ethics Commission to ward off allegations that her husband lied.
Mezzatesta was removed as House Education committee chairman and later lost re-election.
Last spring, two ethics complaints were filed against Mezzatesta, alleging he improperly used his influence to solicit state Department of Education grants.
In 1999, Mezzatesta promised the Ethics Commission he would not use his powerful legislative position to request state education grants for Hampshire schools.
During the ethics agency's investigation last year, Mezzatesta submitted an affidavit, saying, "I have never solicited any grants for the Hampshire County board."
To contact staff writer Eric Eyre, use e-mail or call 348-4869.