Ousted Fraser mayor, councilman claim judge has conflict of interest in their case

Joe Nichols, Matt Hemelberg ousted amid sexual harassment claims

FRASER, Mich. – Two ousted officials in Fraser are trying to get a judge ousted because of an alleged conflict of interest.

Former Mayor Joe Nichols and former City Councilman Matt Hemelberg have filed to have the judge overseeing their case recuse himself because of an alleged conflict of interest.

They said they were denied due process, and now they claim they aren't getting a fair trial because the judge and opposing attorney are in cahoots.

Nichols and Hemelberg have been trying to clear their names since being ousted from office in September amid sexual harassment allegations. Now, as they try to regain their seats legally, they said they see a clear conflict of interest.

"We get a judge who comes with his own set of problems, who has a personal relationship with the lawyer," Nichols said.

The judge in the case is Richard Caretti. The attorney for the City Council is Robert Huth, who has been the treasurer of Caretti's campaign committee since 2004.

Nichols said Caretti should've spoken up.

"He had a responsibility to be transparent, not just with us, but with the city," Nichols said.

"Apparently, they have more than just a relationship since he's handling $30,000 to $40,000 campaigns and he would not let some guy down the street do that," Hemelberg said.

Huth said the accusation of being in cahoots with the judge is ridiculous. He said Nichols won't take responsibility for his own actions, so he wants to blame the judge.

It comes down to the court date regarding Caretti on Nov. 6 and election day for Hemelberg on Nov. 7.

The petition to recall Nichols has gotten the required 1,305 signatures, organizers said. Why recall him if he's already gotten the boot? That way, in case he wins the court case, the city could move along with the process of holding a special election for a new mayor.

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