This is going to be a fun week.
With only 8 days left until ELECTION 2019 occurs, I am continuing my exposé into some of the ridiculous things that are going on in politics. You might think I’m talking national but this is all local.
Here are my previous offerings…
Today I am following up on a previous article I posted about the sexual harassment lawsuit that was just settled last month here in the city of Fraser. Three women (Leah Brown, Kelly Doland, and Michelle Kwiatkowski) sued the city in the case of Leah Brown v. City of Fraser in the county of Macomb, State of Michigan.
A brief summary of the case is this:
Two elected officials — Joe Nichols, who was Mayor, and Councilman Matt Hemelberg — were removed from office for unwelcome sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment with these three ladies. Others also reported similar complaints but did not want to participate in the tribunal that was held by the Council to see if their conduct warranted removal.
The Council did decide to remove Nichols and Hemelberg in September of 2017. Both men appealed the decision before a circuit court and the Michigan Court of Appeals but ultimately lost. The local county paper covered the C.O.A. decision below.
From The Macomb Daily…
In a 15-page opinion Tuesday, the appellate court said Nichols through his attorneys showed no legal basis that the tribunal hearing – a procedure established by the Fraser City Charter for the council to consider removal of one of their own – was improper, or that Caretti abused his discretion in rejecting Nichols’ request that the judge authorize superintending control to put Nichols back in office.
“In this case, the cause for removal was misconduct in office; specifically, Nichols’ sexual harassment of city employees in his official capacity as the mayor,” the appeals judges wrote. “Because we concluded … that there was sufficient evidence for the City Council to find that Nichols’ unwelcome sexual conduct and communication created a hostile work environment, it follows that the record of the hearing contained substantial evidence to support the removal decision. In other words, the City Council members could conclude from the evidence that the charge of misconduct in office was sufficiently established, warranting a vote to remove Nichols from office.”
The ladies eventually sued the city for the hostile workplace and just settled a couple of weeks before this was supposed to go to trial for a total of $85,000 dollars apiece. Listed below are the documents from the court confirming the settlement and the amount.
( Note: The last page with Michelle Kwiatkowski I did not receive the signed copy in the FOIA request but she has confirmed she did agree to the settlement.)
All three ladies settled for $85,000 each which comes to $255,000 dollars. Add in the deductibles for insurance and other miscellaneous add-ons and you are close to a $300,000 to close an ugly chapter in this city’s history.
Yet, as the late great Billy Mays used to say, “But Wait, There’s More”!
The ladies all reported the harassment by Nichols and Hemelberg to the City Manager who at the time was a fella by the name of Richard Haberman. You would think that any person who was in charge of the city would be making sure the work environment was safe and non-threatening. That any leader would have wanted to protect the female employees from this type of behavior.
Yet, according to the depositions, Haberman failed badly.
Adding tons of salt to the wound of this debacle is the fact that Haberman is now running for Council, being he wants to help fix the overall mess he left as City Manager.
What a peach.
Here are just some snippets from the depositions from the ladies in the case:
Kelly Doland Deposition pages 77-80 out of 159.
Doland, who is the City Clerk for Fraser, said this on page 80 of her deposition:
Q. When you raised the issue of the alleged harassment at the dept head meeting, was there any response by Mr. Haberman?
Q. What did he say?
A. He said, I would advise you to get an attorney.
Q. Was that his sole response?
A. That’s’ the best I can recall.
I also have confirmed with others in that meeting that Haberman was told of the harassment and he did say to get a lawyer.
Michelle Kwiatkowski deposition pages 41-42 out of 181.
Kwiatkowski, who is the Systems Administrator/IT director for the City of Fraser said this from page 42 of her deposition:
Q. Did you make anybody aware that you thought this was inappropriate and hostile in 2015?
A. Mr. Haberman.
Q. What did you tell Mr. Haberman specifically in 2015 as it related to Mr. Nichols?
A. At that time we were still going back and forth because they wanted access to public safety. I told them there was no way they were getting access to public safety. He told me that– I specifically said– especially the way they come in and the way they treat women, there is no way they’re going over to public safety. I won’t sign off on it. I had to sign off on it in order to meet the LEIN requirements. he said he would talk to them about not coming in so much and he never did.
Both ladies indicate they went to Haberman to inform him of the harassment. In the case of Kelly Doland, he told her to “get a lawyer” which the women ultimately did and it has now set the City back almost $300k. Haberman’s inaction also forced the Council to hold a tribunal to remove two members.
Pretty embarrassing stuff.
I have been interviewing those running for Council and the only one to not respond to me has been Haberman. I happened to catch him at the local V.F.W. hall on Wednesday, October 23, to ask him about this settlement and a couple of other questions. He was not pleased to see me, being I was doing a facebook live feed. He tried to knock the phone out of my hand and proceeded to run into a bar where only V.F.W members are allowed.
As you can see he was not happy with me and his girlfriend was even more displeased and had some choice words for me that I shall not repeat here on the family-friendly pages of Red State.
The whole point of this sad story is that it is critical you do some homework with ANY candidates who are running to represent you.
In the City of Fraser, the former City Manager is running for office to represent the City he once left in a mess. The City removed two people who were harassing employees and he could have prevented all of it but he looked the other way instead of doing his job and he now won’t discuss this.
I’m sure all across the United States there are similar cases like this in every town. You need to become informed and help weed these people out before they can influence public policy.
Otherwise, we all lose.