STRUTHERS Staff at school backs principal

Michael Orenic still contends the mayor should have kept a contentious message to himself.
STRUTHERS -- Twenty-five staff members at Byzantine Catholic Central School have issued a statement of support for their principal and former council President Michael Orenic.
The letter calls Orenic a man of integrity, intelligence and compassion. It was written in the wake of a pre-election squabble springing from a message Orenic left on Mayor Dan Mamula's voice-mail May 3 proclaiming that the mayor had sold his soul to the devil.
Orenic also threatened to pray that Mamula's children and grandchildren get hooked on drugs.
The Byzantine staff says Orenic simply made a mistake.
Their letter reads: "He apologized for his words, which were spoken in anger, and he has paid for them dearly. Those who are so quick to criticize should ask themselves if they have ever regretted their own words. How lucky for us that our 'friends' have not published our own misspoken words!
"Mr. Orenic is an outstanding principal who has earned our respect and admiration."
What he said: Orenic said that although he has taken a beating for his comments, he always knew the school staff supported him.
"I'm not a bad guy," he said. "I made a mistake. But I paid for it: I lost the election."
Orenic still contends that Mamula should have kept the message to himself and believes it was released to damage him politically. He resigned as president of council May 9 after losing to Danny Thomas Jr., D-1st, in the primary election that week. Orenic's term does not expire till the end of the year.
Daughter's comments: Chris Ward, 35, Orenic's daughter, said she was embarrassed by her father's actions and allegations of her drug problems he made on a radio program last week.
"Never have I ever taken drugs," she said. "It kind of makes me angry that he's talking about me."
Orenic previously said family problems with drugs, combined with Mamula's support of Thomas, resulted in the message he left. Thomas was convicted of a federal felony related to cocaine distribution in 1997, then pardoned by President Clinton on Christmas Day 1999.
Ward, who graduates from Youngstown State University this weekend, said she suffers from manic depression, which Orenic mistook for a drug problem. She said Orenic, who is divorced from her mother, isn't involved in her life or that of her older sister, Michelle.