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Fraser mayor addresses sexual harassment allegations, budget cuts

Mayor Joe Nichols, Councilman Matt Hemelberg accused of sexual harassment

FRASER, Mich.UPDATE: Fraser City Council votes down tax hike that would balance city's budget and prevent police layoffs.

Hundreds of people attended a meeting Tuesday night in Fraser as allegations of sexual harassment swirl around the mayor and a councilman.

The controversy comes as a budget shortfall signals a layoff for up to six police officers. The mayor spoke exclusively with Local 4 and said the two issues are linked.

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Protestors outside the meeting and fired-up residents on the inside asked the Fraser City Council to substantially raise taxes by 5 mill to make sure no police officers are laid off. But voters overwhelmingly shot down that plan in November.

"Our police are there when we need them, immediately," resident Kathy Angel said. "There's no waiting. You don't have to worry. They're driving up and down the streets. They watch our children."

"I support the police officers," another resident said. "They've done so much for our community."

Plenty of others said the will of the voters needs to be respected. Fraser has the highest number of police officers per population of any community in Macomb County.

"You live within your means," a resident said. "It's about dollars. Look at the big picture."

Mayor Joe Nichols sat down with Mara MacDonald to talk about the harassment allegations and the budget.

Once Nichols made it clear he wouldn't support raising 5 mill over the voters' objections, he said the allegations surfaced.

"I think it's very poor political posturing that the night after we voted no, everything was pushed ahead," Nichols said.

Nichols is being accused of sexual harassment by multiple employees, as is City Councilman Matt Hemelberg.

"I never stood in front of anybody and said I was perfect," Nichols said. "I've made some remarks that some might think, 'Ah, you know, that's probably not the best thing.' But I'm a human being. I'm not making excuses, I'm giving you an explanation."

The meeting entered its fifth hour around 11 p.m. Tuesday. It's considered unlikely that there will be enough votes to raise the $5 million, which means there would be police layoffs.


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