Fraser mayor, city councilman removed over sexual harassment allegations

Employees accuse Joseph Nichols, Matthew Hemelberg of sexual harassment

FRASER, Mich. - The Fraser City Council voted Monday to remove Mayor Joseph Nichols and Councilman Matthew Hemelberg from their respective positions because of sexual harassment allegations made by employees.

Animosity has been building in Fraser between elected officials after Nichols and Hemelberg were accused of giving inappropriate shoulder massages to female city employees and making sexual comments.

Removal of an elected official is serious and typically is only done by a sitting governor in extreme cases. But Fraser's council knew it would get no action in Lansing, so it took matters into its own hands. Now, its actions will have to survive legal challenge.

"It was a kangaroo court," Nichols said. "The reality is we didn't get due process."

Nichols and Hemelberg left Fraser City Hall after their colleagues voted to throw them out of office because of their "frat boy-like behavior."

"I saw Mr. Hemelberg massaging the shoulder of the librarian," Fraser city manager Wayne O'Neal said.

O'Neal kickstarted the investigation after viewing what he said was inappropriate behavior on the part of the two back in January of this year. There had been no sexual harassment complaints filed against either man.

The city brought in an outside attorney to conduct an investigation and got an earful from several female employees such as Leah Brown, who said she had an encounter with Nichols.

"He starts up a conversation about how not everybody can wear leggings, but I could," Brown said.

The two employees with the most complaints against the now former mayor and councilman didn't show up to the tribunal. While the council's vote might be over, the legal wrangling is not.

You can watch Mara MacDonald's full story in the video posted above.

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