Ex-police chief, bus driver loses arbitration

MARQUETTE — Former Republic Township Police Chief William Arbelius has lost a binding arbitration ruling even though he was found not guilty of sexual misconduct by a jury.

While working as a bus driver at MARQ-TRAN, Arbelius was accused of improperly touching a developmentally disabled woman. Arbelius was found not guilty of three felony sex abuse charges. But, what you don’t know is a second mini–trial was quietly held with witnesses, some of whom did not testify during the criminal case.

MARQ–TRAN has about 300 to 400 daily passengers, plus 50 drivers and some 36 buses of various size. Some are smaller and include handicap chair lifts for those with special needs. Arbelius worked part–time for MARQ-TRAN starting in July 2002, and became a full time driver in Oct. 2009. He had about 4 years full time seniority when fired. Arbelius was suspended from his bus driver’s job in September 2013, however he filed a grievance against Marquette County Transit Authority saying the suspension was “without just and proper cause.” That resulted in a binding arbitration hearing that lasted two days in late October 2014, Oct. 20 and 21.

ABC 10 obtained the 56-page binding arbitration ruling through the Freedom of Information Act. The arbitrator was Patrick A. McDonald.

Read the full document by clicking here.

The alleged victim is a 30 year old woman who is said to be attractive, however, with the cognitive development of 10 to 12 year old. She and her mom, who first raised a red flag, have since moved out of state. That woman answered written questions and responded in writing.

The victim alleged that Arbelius told her she was pretty, kissed her and touched her “on the arms, and between her legs and [breasts]”. She claimed Arbelius threatened her not to tell her mother. The victim was a client of Pathways and was picked up at their Ishpeming office. Officials say it’s about a 14 minute drive from her home.

The hearing revealed Arbelius allegedly modified route and time sheets. An internal MARQ-TRAN investigation revealed that Arbelius was the victim’s bus driver 31 times, and an additional 19 times when Arbelius made changes to route sheets, something he did “repeatedly and unilaterally.” That means he was alone with her most of the time as part of MARQ–TRAN door–to–door service.

The criminal and MARQ-TRAN probes began, when the victim’s mother called MARQ–TRAN in Sept 2013 to report her daughter was late getting home several times. A doctor testified that the victim did not have the cognitive ability to consent to sex. After talking with many involved in the trial and hearing, its appears the case boils down to whether you believe Arbelius, who denied the charges, or the victim.

Arbitrator McDonald apparently believed the victim calling the charges “serious and egregious.” The arbitrator wrote “it has been demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Arbelius engaged in inappropriate sexual contact or molestation with a mentally disabled or handicapped passenger.”

In his scathing analysis, the arbitrator said Arbelius engaged in misconduct and “took opportunities to manipulate the system so he could sexually harass and molest an unprotected passenger.” Arbitrator McDonald said “the evidence is clear as is the testimony of the victim,” claiming Arbelius violated his position of trust as a bus driver for those with special needs.

In addition to believing the victim, the arbitrator denied the reinstatement of Arbelius as a bus driver, ruled he will not get back pay or wages, and Arbelius must pay for the costs of the arbitration hearing and ruling. Several co–workers and administration official testified. ABC 10 contacted MARQ–TRAN officials and Arbelius’s AFSCME rep. Pete Dompierre, who all declined comment.