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Candidates in Shelby Township discuss Police Department, chief

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published July 27, 2020

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Election time has arrived, and Shelby Township’s candidates for local office are ready to face off in the Aug. 4 primary election. All candidates seeking office in Shelby Township have filed as Republicans; there are no Democratic Party candidates on the ballot for Shelby Township supervisor, clerk, treasurer or trustee.

As discussion and protests have arisen concerning the Police Department, funding and Police Chief Robert Shelide’s inflammatory social media posts, for which he was suspended 30 days and ordered to undergo cultural and sensitivity training, candidates were asked to share their thoughts on what they thought should be done.

There are two candidates who have filed to run for Shelby Township supervisor in the primary election, Grant G. Golasa and incumbent Rick Stathakis.

Concerning the incident with the police chief, Golasa said, “Without the full evidence presented to the Board of Trustees, it is difficult to deem their action as appropriate or inappropriat,” he said.

I do believe individuals serving in leadership positions funded by tax dollars should be held to a higher standard. If I were on the board, I would have asked these two questions: 1) To the legal counsel, ‘How will these posts impact a charged individual in a court of law and what liability may the township incur if the charges are dropped due to the chief’s posts?’ 2) To the chief, ‘If you were hiring a new officer and discovered these social media posts on the candidate’s Twitter page, would it impact the hiring decision?’” he said.

Rick Stathakis said he stands by his statements at the prior board meetings that the board must always govern and live based on shared principles. When the board voted 5-2 to suspend Shelide, Stathakis, along with trustee Vince Viviano, thought that Shelide should be fired.

“We must also respect the board’s decision and allow Chief Shelide to use his training and keep our Police Department on its course. Now is the time for healing and rebuilding complete trust. This process requires patience, transparency and a commitment to listen and grow. I know the men and women in our Police Department are the finest officers in the region and state, and they will be successful.”

Incumbent Stanley Grot is running unopposed for township clerk, a position he has held since 2012. He did not respond to the question. He voted for the chief’s suspension and training.

Two candidates, James L. Carabelli and incumbent Michael Flynn, are running for Shelby Township treasurer.

Carabelli, who was elected in November 2018 to his sixth two-year term as a county commissioner, did not respond to the question.

Flynn has been a township trustee since 2008. He voted for the chief’s suspension and training.

“While the words the chief used were harsh and inappropriate, they were in no way racially motivated. The lapse in judgment with regard to his personal social media account entitled him to discipline, not termination. ‘Cancel Culture’ has gone way too far in this country. Shelby residents deserve conservative leadership whose decisions rely on fact-based logic, not the demands of the radical left mob. If reelected treasurer, I will continue to support and promote an independent, modern and professional Shelby Township police force. Despite what may be happening in other American municipalities, our residents expect and appreciate law and order,” Flynn said.

There are nine candidates who have filed for the position of township trustee.

Ronald L. Campbell Jr. has been retired from General Motors since 2006 and is a former Eastpointe city councilman and deputy mayor from 1987 to 1997. He is also a retired bus driver for Utica Community Schools.

“The chief admitted his error, stepped up the day it was revealed, served his 30-day suspension. On a 5-2 vote. Although I don’t have all the facts and figures and policies of the Shelby Township board, I would judge the chief on his whole body of work over 34 years in Detroit, Southfield and Shelby — not one day on social media. No issues. No writeups. No lawsuits. Should he or myself be terminated for one of his worse days ever? No. STPD going forward — the men and women of the Shelby Township Police Department do a fantastic job. Responsive, proactive, compassionate and fair,” he said.

Incumbent Lisa Casali has been a Shelby Township resident for 32 years. She was appointed to the Board of Trustees in January 2019 after 10 years on the township’s Planning Commission. She did not respond to the question. She voted for the chief’s suspension and training.

Lucia DiCicco said the Shelby police officers are the best around, but the story of what the township is doing to promote a community policing model and engage members of the community hasn’t been told.

“At this point, we can continue to argue over the comments made and the votes cast, or we can look toward the future. Though uncomfortable to be in the spotlight with weekly news stories, it provides an opportunity to highlight what our Police Department does well and communicate to the community that we are always working to improve. I will move forward with a plan that gives Shelby Township the opportunity to lead on this. We have a community policing model, the Community Services Unit, which dispatches our officers to community events to engage with our community. These interactions bridge the gap and humanize both our officers and members of our community,” she said.

Darlene J. Doetzel did not respond.

Judy Guzzardo is a 20-year resident of Shelby Township and said that America’s police forces all need training in new ways of handling complex situations in today’s world.

Incumbent John Vermeulen said he has strongly supported the Police and Fire departments.

“The Shelby Township police chief was placed on a 30-day suspension, and this was approved by the board by a 5-2 vote. I voted for the 30-day suspension. The board looked at his exceptional past record, his improvements of the Police Department and the improved training protocols he has put in place. I would also note that the chief was required to take two classes that focused on sensitivity and awareness, both of these I also supported. My vision for the Shelby Township police is for the department to continue to keep our community one of the safest to live,” he said.

David B. Viar is a lifelong resident of Shelby Township and said that “the role of law enforcement is to ensure the public’s safety and protect the lives, property and First Amendment rights of all persons involved in the event. Chief Shelide’s calls for retribution against protesters and his reference to demonstrators as ‘barbarians’ were not only offensive, but his statements represent a brutal misguided approach to policing. People have the constitutional right to peaceably assemble and protest. If a protest gets out of hand or turns violent, then police should respond with a reasonable amount of force necessary to protect people and property from injury and damage. I support full funding of our police, but I would have voted to fire the chief,” he said.    

Incumbent Vince Viviano has lived in Shelby Township for 15 years and said that the community has been placed under a high degree of justified scrutiny.

“We must ensure that all of our public safety officials operate with the highest regard for dignity and respect. Each of us board members had our say regarding the chief’s tenure here in the township. I want to be clear that public safety will remain a steadfast priority for me as long as I have the great fortune to serve this township. I will ensure that our Police Department has all the necessary resources and insights needed to be a leading community-focused department. Moving forward, we must ensure that we learn from the many diverse voices in our community and continue to cultivate a place that is welcoming to all,” he said.

Incumbent Lynn Wilhelm has been a resident of Shelby Township for more than 16 years. She is the board liaison for the Downtown Development Authority, Solid Waste and Recycling Committee, and Parks and Recreation Committee. She did not respond to the question. She voted in favor of the chief’s suspension and training.

For more information on the candidates and elections, visit clerk.macombgov.org/clerk-elections.

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