Councilman Jerry Slusiewicz resigned from the Laguna Niguel City Council Tuesday night, saying someone fired a bullet through his company office window over the weekend.
“I’ve got to look out for the family,” Slusiewicz said in a Tuesday afternoon interview. “This is a threat to my entire family — it’s over the top.”
His resignation letter was emailed about 6 p.m. to Laguna Niguel City Clerk Eileen Gomez and Slusiewicz’s “Council Colleagues,” roughly an hour before the scheduled start of the Dec. 5 council meeting. He said he didn’t plan to attend the meeting. About 15 minutes before the 7 p.m. start of the meeting, a city staffer removed Slusiewicz’s nameplate from the dais.
“Considering the events of the last 48 hours, we have decided as a family that it would be unwise for me to remain on the City Council,” he wrote in his resignation letter.
The entire letter was read to the City Council and an audience of about 40 members of the public at the very beginning of the meeting by City Attorney Terry Dixon. There were a few gasps from the audience, but silence from everyone else. The council then moved to its prayer, pledge of allegiance to the flag and start of the meeting.
After the meeting, Mayor Elaine Gennawey told a Voice of OC reporter “I wish him and his family well…I know this has been a trying time.”
Councilman Fred Minagar said “I’m pretty sad. I was surprised to learn of this when I sat down tonight.”
Slusiewicz wasn’t in his Laguna Niguel office, Pacific Financial Planners, LLC, when the shot was fired and said he’s not sure if the gunshot is related to any of his Council activities.
The Sheriff’s Department is investigating but a bullet or other type of projectile hasn’t been found yet. Slusiewicz said the weekend cleaning crew may have vacuumed it up.
Slusiewicz, 56, has been the center of City Council controversy in recent months after discovering a $410,000 cost overrun in a city contract and then being accused of bullying by a former city manager.
Slusiewicz said he noticed the gunshot hole in the office window, about six feet from his desk, just after he got to work about 8 a.m. Monday and also noticed small bits of glass on a counter and on the floor between a desk and the wall.
“Thank God it was at the family business and nobody was there over the weekend,” Slusiewicz said.
At first, he said he thought it might have been a random bullet hole in a string of shots taken at windows over the weekend, but he said he grew concerned after Sheriff’s investigators found no other windows in the building suffered similar damage. There are no security cameras on the building, he said.
Orange County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Matthew Barr said it’s still too early to tell what kind of projectile went through the window. Barr serves as Laguna Niguel’s Chief of Police Services.
“[Slusiewicz] called me yesterday on what he felt was a bullet hole in his office window. We sent a deputy over, they looked for the projectile, but couldn’t find it,” Barr said, adding that crime scene investigators scoured the area. Barr said the Sheriff’s investigators will have to wait for the crime lab to determine what type of projectile was fired through the window.
He said the department is not aware of any similar incidents in the city recently.
“Investigators documented the scene. Other than that, we don’t have much more information,” Barr said. “It happens on occasion where somebody has something go through a window, a pellet or a bullet … without any suspect … there’s not much we can do, but we’re working on the issue.”
Slusiewicz said it may be too coincidental to be a random shot.
“Maybe it’s totally random,” Slusiewicz said. “But it’s the one elected official who’s highlighting malfeasance [in the city].”
“I’m hoping it ends — got to draw the line somewhere,” Slusiewicz said.
Slusiewicz was accused of bullying earlier this year after he discovered — through a partial audit — the city overspent $410,000 on a tree trimming contract with West Coast Arborists.
“It’s crushing to have to step down as a taxpayer watchdog,” Slusiewicz said.
Since uncovering the tree trimming contract overages, Slusiewicz — a 30-plus year financial planner, investor and broker — has called for the tree trimming contract findings to be sent to the District Attorney and a full audit of the city’s vendor contracts conducted by a third party. His pleas were met with resistance from the Council even after additional cost overruns in maintenance and landscape contracts were discovered in September, resulting in an aggregate $2 million increase to the contracts.
Slusiewicz said he sent all the contract overage findings to the District Attorney’s office Nov. 7.
“Since bringing this to the people’s attention, my family’s been under threats,” Slusiewicz said, citing bullying allegations against him from a community theatre where his daughter was involved, a soccer league his son was in and a carpet store where his wife shopped.
“It’s ironic that I’m the one that’s been accused of bullying,” he said.
The city employee bullying allegations and the resulting investigation into Slusiewicz’ alleged behavior ultimately led to Slusiewicz stepping down from the largely ceremonial office of Mayor in August. Slusiewicz was first elected to the Council in 2012.
Before being elected to the Council, Slusiewicz served five years on the Planning Commission, six years on the Investment Banking and Audit Committee and eight years as a member of the Orange County Treasurer’s Advisory Committee.
The resignation puts an early end to Slusiewicz’ second term on the council after he was reelected last year.
“We decided this was the best decision for the family,” Slusiewicz said. “It’s crushing.”