Turnaround — Councilmen won’t resign over racially charged texts after all
ROSELAND — When Borough Councilmen Thomas Tsilionis and David Jacobs announced last week they would resign after a racially insensitive texts by the pair were made public, it was believed the council would have two empty seats at Tuesday's meeting.
In fact, after the two announced their resignations, the borough removed the men from the council's page on its website.
However, at Tuesday night's meeting the men announced they had changed their minds and in fact only resigned from the Republican Party, rather than the governing body.
In the text messages, Tsilionis had joked that he should change his last name to "ShwarzNigga" as a joke about the size of male genitalia and being conservative with money.
According to a report in The Progress, several members of the governing body were included in the group text, which started several months ago. Councilman Richard Leonard shared the message chain with the Progress last month.
According to another report The Progress, Tuesday's was an emotionally charged meeting, with a large police presence as people on both sides of the issue expressed their feelings on the men keeping their seats on the council.
Tsilionis told New Jersey 101.5 that after he announced his resignation, he hoped to be able to put the events and politics behind him. He said his family had been affected by the situation as well. However, on Wednesday. he said that after careful consideration and discussions with his friends and family, he decided it was best for him to continue to serve.
At the time of his original announcement, Tsilionis had said he believed the messages, which were sent last March, were released as an act of political retribution by Leonard. During the annual reorganization meeting Leonard was a candidate for Council President, but was ultimately beaten by Councilman Mark Vidovich for the position.
As he returned to the dais Tsilionis said he looks forward to working with both men and the rest of the council to serve the people who elected them.
"I spoke to Councilman Leonard after the meeting," he said. "We're looking forward to putting this behind us and moving forward."
Moving forward, he said, means finishing out his term, which expires at the end of 2018. At this point, he said, he does not plan to run for another term.
Even if he wanted to seek another term it likely would not be on the Republican ticket. Borough Republican Chairman Mary Comito was quoted in a story on NJ.com saying, "Mayor John Duthie, Essex County Republican Committee Chairman Al Barlas, and I are deeply disappointed in Councilmen Tsilionis and Jacobs' decision to rescind their resignations from the Roseland Council."
In her own statement, Comito said said the two men had told the various parts of the party that "for the good of Roseland, they would step aside."
As he returns to the council, Tsilionis told New Jersey 101.5., he still regrets the comments. But he said he has learned from them and looks forward to doing more work for the community now.
"Some people wanted me to step down because of it, a lot of people don't," he said. "It didn't make anybody look good. It made the whole town look bad."
According to the NJ.com story, while the two men said publicly that they would resign neither ever submitted a formal resignation letter to the borough clerk, which allowed them to return to their seats on Tuesday night.
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