By Jim Newell
Trustee Ron Sliwinski sat silent throughout the Orion Township Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, listening stoically as two fellow board members and a resident called for him to resign his seat on the board.
Sliwinski offered no comment on the sexual harassment accusations against him, nor did he address his recent arrest on an assault and battery charge.
During the board member comments portion of the meeting, “No comments tonight,” was all he said.
“I feel that, Mr. Ron Sliwinski, the honorable thing to do would be to resign from your seat; to lift this burden off our township board as well as our community,” Trustee Michael Flood, Jr. said. “And this is nothing personal, nothing at all. I look at this as professional.”
“I had a conversation with Ron earlier this week and I’ll be short because I feel bad for Ron, either way – if it’s true, if it’s not true, either way I feel bad for the situation. At the same token, I think that it’s distracting for us as a board, and I’ll say it shortly, that I do concur with Mike,” Treasurer Donni Steele said.
Sliwinski was arrested and arraigned Jan. 30 on one count of assault and battery (see page 1 of this issue for the story).
Sliwinski, a former special education teacher at Lake Orion High School, was accused by a fellow teacher in May 2017 of sexual harassment that reportedly included unwanted physical touching, vulgar gestures and degrading comments.
In November, an unknown person sent 44 envelopes containing the accusations and email exchanges between Sliwinski and the female teacher to Orion Township Hall staff.
Steele and Flood were the only board members to directly call for Sliwinski to resign.
Mary MacMaster was the lone resident who addressed the board on the subject, saying it was past time for Sliwinski to resign.
“I’m here on the issue that’s been in the newspapers, including a recent arrest. It is my opinion that it is long overdue for the chronically absent, since November of 2017, township board Trustee Ronald Sliwinski to do what he once stated he would do, and that is he should immediately resign from the township board for the greater good and interest of the community as a whole,” MacMaster said.
“This is public record about what went out to over 40 township employees, and the complaints that were going on and the responses. And I must say, it is quite disturbing to read. So, I think it is best for the community if Ron Sliwinski makes the choice, finally, to resign from the township board,” MacMaster said.
Flood, who spoke at length, was noticeably distraught while calling for Sliwinski to resign.
“It’s the last thing I ever want to do as a township board member, I never thought I would have to do this in my life,” Flood said. “Recently, with the results that have taken place this last week, I feel as a township board member – I can finally now say something because it’s out in the public.”
Flood said he didn’t want to criticize anybody and wanted the board to follow procedure by forwarding the information to the state attorney general’s office for review, which it did at a special board meeting in November after the accusations became public.
“Finally, in November when these 44 letters were mailed to township employees it kind of opened a Pandora’s Box and started the whole process,” Flood said. “I was raised that my actions speak louder than my words. Especially in today’s society. Politicians, they lie, they can tell you anything you want. But it’s their actions that prove the quality of a person.
“I’m not speaking for this board, I’m speaking for myself as Trustee Flood, and I’m not trying to be critical. But this board, since this has been brought to us in November, there has been a dark cloud hanging over us and we’ve been trying to walk on eggs not trying to offend anybody and legality-wise stay the course.
“When each of us takes that oath of office, when you’re sitting up here we’re representing 38,000 people in our community. When we’re elected to these jobs, as elected officials we are considered leaders of the community. Also, with that job comes trustworthiness and honor,” Flood said.
Sliwinski has remained silent on the accusations since November and has often been absent from board meetings. He has not responded to requests for comment.
“My heart goes out to Mrs. Sliwinski and the family. I have the utmost respect. It hurts, it hurts when you get in the public view as an elected official,” Flood said.
Supervisor Chris Barnett said he met with Sliwinski last week for a private discussion
“I have not said a lot publicly, in spite of the very best efforts of people in the press, and I respect their job, too, regarding the situation with Trustee Sliwinski. I think what I said was, and it was quoted in one of the articles, was that it’s sad, and it is sad. I just hope for a resolution and that we can move forward,” Barnett said.
“The goal, and my job up here is to keep us focused…on the work that we’re hired to do,” Barnett said. “We have a lot of huge decisions we’re going to be making on behalf of the community, so I’m going to continue to push that message.”