By Jim Newell
Orion Township will refer a case of sexual harassment allegations against Trustee Ron Sliwinski to the state Attorney General’s office for review.
The board of trustees voted unanimously during a special meeting Nov. 15 to send the case – and documents – to the state “for purposes of review and investigation.”
The board called the meeting after allegations against Sliwinski surfaced Nov. 6 when Orion Township officials received anonymous statements and copies of emails accusing Sliwinski of sexual harassment while he was a teacher at Lake Orion High School last school year.
Supervisor Chris Barnett said the township received 44 envelopes containing an unsigned statement and copies of emails accusing Sliwinski of harassing a fellow teacher.
Sliwinski did not attend the board meeting on Nov. 15.
“Mr. Sliwinski did know that this meeting was going to be about this discussion and he emailed us saying he would not be able to attend,” said Dan Kelly, the township’s attorney.
Kelly said he talked to Sliwinski and “he has not admitted to any kind of inappropriate behavior.”
Kelly advised the board of their options and recommended forwarding the issue to the Attorney General, adding that at this point the allegations are still unfounded and the board cannot take any direct action against Sliwinski.
“There’s nothing we can do with his position as an elected official on the township board,” Kelly said.
“I agree wholeheartedly with our attorney,” said Trustee Michael Flood. “I think we should do our due diligence and take the appropriate actions that our attorney recommends because I have great concerns for our community.”
“I think it’s important for us as best we can to maintain the integrity of this board and focus on what we have to do,” said Supervisor Chris Barnett. “My only concern is that these are just allegations at this point. Are these documents sufficient for us to take action? The best approach would be to wait until we get an opinion from the Attorney General.”
The Attorney General could review the documents and proceed with an investigation if it is deemed warranted, Kelly said.
If the Attorney General decides there is not sufficient evidence to proceed with an investigation, the process would end.
However, even if there was an investigation and any culpability determined, those proceedings would still run through the Attorney General’s office, Kelly informed the board.
The emails exchanged, dated May 2, 2017, are between a married female teacher who claims the harassment had gone on for years, and, according to the documents, included unwanted physical touching, vulgar gestures and inappropriate comments about the teacher’s appearance and sex life.
Sliwinski is a former special education teacher at Lake Orion High School and also was the JV football coach.
He was elected as an Orion Township trustee in November 2016 while still employed with Lake Orion schools.
Undersheriff Mike McCabe confirmed last week that the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office had received a complaint against Sliwinski at the Orion Township Substation.
“A complaint has been filed,” McCabe said. “We do have an ongoing investigation.”
Township administrators sent a notice the day after receiving the allegations against Sliwinski to all township employees regarding the documents and sexual harassment in general.
“Our responsibility is to the employees of the township. I think we’ve done that with our notification last week,” Kelly said.
The township board could take action regarding Sliwinski’s appointments and remove him from representing the township on those committees.
Sliwinski currently serves on the Polly Ann Trail committee and is an alternate on the SEMCOG committee.