'The truth will come out,' attorney to Fraser councilman accused of sexual harassment

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Fraser Mayor Joe Nichols; Councilman Matt Hemelberg, both accused of sexual harassment, ask judge to cancel removal

Things turned snippy today between a Fraser councilman accused of sexually harassing city workers and the attorney hired by the city to conduct a tribunal hearing to determine if the councilman will be removed from office.

"They were afraid to tell their side of the story," attorney Rob Huth said of Fraser Mayor Joe Nichols and Councilman Matt Hemelberg -- both accused of sexual harassment -- after a hearing in Macomb County court where the pair asked a judge to cancel the tribunal.

"You're crazy," Hemelberg replied in the hallway outside the courtroom.

"You are not gonna intimidate me," Huth said. "The truth will come out."

The brief back-and-forth came as Huth spoke with reporters after the hearing before Judge Richard Caretti on the politicians' request for a temporary restraining order to cancel the tribunal scheduled for Monday.

If the city council finds the elected officials committed misconduct, it can remove them from office.

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Caretti said he would issue a written opinion within 24 hours.

Angela Mannarino, who represents the politicians, argued that none of the reasons for removal from office in the city charter apply in this situation.

She told Caretti that she hasn't been given specifics from Huth on what witnesses will be called and how the hearing will be run.

"It doesn't allow them to do anything they feel like on a whim," she said. "The hearing itself is a huge unknown for my clients."

Mannarino argued that three of the four council members who voted to have the tribunal have already "made their decision painfully clear." And it's not in favor of her clients.

the-truth-will-come-out-attorney-to-fraser-councilman-accused-of-sexual-harassment photo 1Buy Photo

Angela Mannarino, left, attorney for two Fraser politicians accused of sexual harassment, and Rob Huth, an attorney who will oversee a city council tribunal hearing to decide if the politicians are removed from office, argue about the tribunal in Macomb County Circuit Court on Sept. 13, 2017. (Photo: Christina Hall, Detroit Free Press)

After the court hearing, she said that she doesn't believe her clients will get a fair shake at the tribunal.

Huth said he will be calling about seven witnesses and Thomas Fleury, the Southfield attorney who investigated the allegations for the city.

Huth told Caretti that he would be a special prosecutor like Ken Starr, the independent counsel who headed the investigation that led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

Huth said Mannarino would be able to present witnesses and that the city attorney, most likely, would be presiding over the hearing, which Huth believed would be like a civil service hearing.

He told Caretti that the elected officials are accused of hugging, kissing and massaging shoulders of the female workers, adding that he wanted to keep what he said "G-rated."

The two attorneys disagreed on whether these alleged acts constituted misconduct in office.

Mannarino said she would have preferred a ruling today and thought Caretti's questions may lead him to deny the motion for a restraining order. She said she hasn't talked about any appeals if the ruling isn't in her clients' favor.

Huth said he believed "this smokescreen to cover up poor behavior will not be successful."

He said there is no reason council shouldn't make a decision on the pair's political futures after the tribunal hearing. If the council decides to remove the politicians from office, their removal would be effective immediately, Huth said.

In a court filing, attorneys for Nichols and Hemelberg stated that if the men are removed from office, they will be prohibited from holding office for three years.

Many residents are preparing to circulate four recall petitions against Nichols that were approved last week. They are trying to get a recall election on the ballot in May.

Nichols is in the middle of his four-year term, which he won in November 2015. Hemelberg cannot be recalled because his term expires in November. He is seeking re-election.

"This bullying has to stop," Fraser resident Ray Wojciechowski said, referring to the behavior of the targeted politicians.

Contact Christina Hall: chall99@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter: @challreporter.

 

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Article 'The truth will come out,' attorney to Fraser councilman accused of sexual harassment compiled by Original article here

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