Saugatuck Township Manager Aaron Sheridan Publicly Reprimanded For Use Of F--- Word, Unethical & Unprofessional Actions & Threatening Behavior Involving Officials, Public
Saugatuck Township Supervisor Jon Phillips during a special meeting Wednesday presented the full township board with a litany of written, detailed accounts of official misconduct by Township Manager Aaron Sheridan which led to Sheridan being publicly reprimanded by the full board and ordered to take anger management/interpersonal skills classes.
After a closed-session meeting during which Phillips shared his reports and records on Sheridan’s official misconduct, the township trustees came back into open session.
At that time, Phillips made a motion to have Sheridan dismissed (fired) as manager, but no one seconded that motion so it was not voted upon.
Township Clerk Brad Rudich then put forth a motion to have Sheridan officially reprimanded for his actions and to have that written reprimand made part of his permanent personnel file.
The township board unanimously voted to approve that motion and Sheridan was then officially reprimanded.
The township board also ordered Sheridan to attend anger management and/or interpersonal skills classes to deal with his unprofessional and repeated outbursts and anger-filled interactions with board members, other government officials and the public.
The public was not provided the specifics of Sheridan’s misconduct as detailed in Phillips’ records and reports, but The Local Observer has obtained them through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Here are some of the key excerpts detailing Sheridan’s unprofessional actions that resulted in his formal reprimand:
Aaron Sheridan has violated numerous township employee rules, regulations and policies including: Section 10.3 “Unacceptable Employee Conduct”, including (.9) - “Any communication or action intended to threaten, intimidate or coerce another employee or a member of the general public; (.15) - Using abusive language, threatening, intimidating, coercing and/or fighting with employees, supervisors or the general public; (.16) - Engaging in obscene or indecent conduct; (.25) - Disregarding or refusing to obey an order, either written or verbal, from a supervisor or the Township Manager.
Phillips’ verbatim statements in his report highlighting examples of Sheridan’s misconduct include:
“I, as Saugatuck Township Supervisor, have received multiple verbal complaints and sentiments of deep concern not only from our governmental counterparts in the Tri-Community, but also from residents and business owners regarding Mr. Sheridan’s conduct. Below, I have included documented incidents of his actions showing his complete disregard for the position he holds.
“The matter of utmost concern is the service and integrity of the Saugatuck Township governmental body and how these incidents reflect on how the Township as a whole is viewed in the eyes of the public and our Tri-Community partners. It is our responsibility to the residents of Saugatuck Township to provide government services with integrity, knowledge, respect and cooperation with our neighbors.
August 2, 2017
Incident of inappropriate language/conduct used by Manager Sheridan directly to Supervisor Phillips
Around 4 o’clock pm on August 2, 2017, I stopped by the Township Hall to speak with Brad Rudich, the Township Clerk. Brad was walking out the door. I was hoping to ask Brad to remove the proposed fire ordinance from the meeting agenda, set to take place at 6 pm that evening. Present in the building were Assessor Sherry Mason, Treasurer Lori Babinski, Zoning Administrator Steve Kushion and Manager Aaron Sheridan.
Mr. Sheridan approached me and asked to speak with me. I had some major concerns over the new fire ordinance. I explained to him why I did not think it was the time to try to pass this ordinance. I told him that I was questioning the legality of him tape-recording a meeting between him and the city managers (of Saugatuck & Douglas) and their zoning administrators without their knowledge. I also told him I didn’t feel he followed our ordinances in regards to the Dwayne Brown fire incident. I was told by others in an admission on the recording that he (Sheridan) had told a taxpayer not to pay a bill from the fire department. At that moment Mr. Kushion walked into the room and said it was him that told the taxpayer not to pay the bill. I felt that because Mr. Sheridan is supposed to oversee the zoning administrator’s actions, that either way what had been done was wrong. Mr. Sheridan proceeded to tell me I was wrong and I did not know what I was talking about.
I asked Mr. Sheridan to make a request to go into closed session in our meeting that was to take place at 6 pm. Mr. Sheridan proceeded to get extremely upset with me and asked to speak with me in the back room. I agreed. I then explained to him that I thought we had no standing on the issue. I stated that after listening to the recording he gave me, I felt the way he presented himself at the managers’ meeting on July 31st was extremely poor and he was unprepared. He showed up with no redline copy of the new (fire) ordinance for them to review and he had no paperwork with him. He told me he had not received an updated version from our lawyer. I felt he did not answer the questions that were asked during the meeting.
I said, we cannot vote on this ordinance change after receiving the redline version document only two hours before a meeting. The magnitude of changes did not allow enough time for the board to be informed regarding the issues presented by the cities and the fire district. Then he accused me of going public with my claims and started to get visibly upset.
During this conversation, I received a text on my phone. When I checked my phone Mr. Sheridan accused me of recording him. I said that I was not recording, I had simply received a text. He said, “Let me see it.” I said “What?” Then he told me to turn my phone off. He said “I don’t trust you.” He also told me “That’s twice you f—-ed me now, Jon.”
He (Sheridan) made mention of a time in a previous Township board meeting where we were having public comment and an individual from the fire station told Mr. Sheridan he “owed the Fire Chief (Greg Janik) an apology for his actions to the Fire Chief.” Mr. Sheridan felt I should have stood up for him at that moment in the meeting and defended him. He also indicated that he had worked on these ordinances and amendments for six months and it was on my behalf.
He (Sheridan) proceeded to say, “Jon, if you are going to the press, bring it on, I dare you, bring it on.” At this moment I decided it was time for me to exit the room (as) there was no talking about the situation any further. As I was walking away, he (Sheridan) said, “F—- you, Jon. You can f—- off.”
In other incidents involving Sheridan’s misconduct, Phillips pointed out that in an August 2 township board meeting, “Supervisor Phillips had to stop Mr. Sheridan from addressing members of the public during the meeting. “Mr. Sheridan could not refrain from trying to admonish those with opposing opinions on the matter being discussed.”
In yet another incident, this time on July 31 in which Sheridan secretly tape-recorded Saugatuck, Douglas and fire department officials, Phillips said Sheridan “has done irreparable damage to the integrity of our Township government and its ability to work on future issues with our Tri-Community partners.”
Describing yet another incident where Sheridan acted unprofessionally, Phillips provided a letter received from Fennville Fire Chief Sara Bushee who described an incident where an angered Sheridan in a public meeting did not agree with comments from others and would sigh heavily,…and “at one point took an article of clothing he was holding on his lap and threw it on the ground.”
In another incident, Sheridan in an email to Saugatuck City Manager Kirk Harrier roundly criticized then-Township Supervisor Bill Wester because he (Sheridan) disagreed with him and told Harrier to disregard Wester’s instructions.
Several members of the public who attended the meeting Wednesday also spoke of various unprofessional and unethical actions by Sheridan.
Jane Verplank, Saugatuck City Councilwoman and chair of the Saugatuck Township Fire District Board, admonished the Saugatuck Township Board to deal with Sheridan’s inappropriate and unethical behavior.
“If you sweep this under the rug tonight, I would suggest you get a bigger broom and a huge rug for the next episode (of Aaron Sheridan),” said Verplank.
Verplank in the past has detailed many examples of what she’s referred to as Sheridan’s “ego-driven” and “despicable” actions, especially several interactions with Fire Chief Greg Janik where Sheridan “acted inappropriately and unprofessionally.”
Neither Sheridan nor Rudich responded to The Local Observer’s request for comments after the township board’s special meeting on Wednesday.