WENHAM – Moments after Gary Cheeseman read a statement from Wenham Board of Selectmen’s Jack Wilhelm who stepped down from the board, contested member John Clemenzi read his own statement – in which he also resigned, “with immediate effect.”
Clemenzi, who had been asked to resign because of sexual harassment by a city employee and another city official, left the meeting.
The city worker filed a discrimination and retaliation complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination last month. After that complaint became public, a member of the finance committee, Carrie Jelsma, publicly announced an incident in which she said Clemenzi touched her lower back in a way that made her uncomfortable and kissed her cheek while commenting on the Me too movement made.
Following Clemenzi’s announcement at last Tuesday’s meeting, Cheeseman, the only remaining member, began making arrangements for a special election to take place 64 days after the vacancy was formalized.
On Friday, Cheeseman drew the city’s attention to the fact that he had not yet received anything in writing from Clemenzi.
And on Monday, Clemenzi said the matter is now in the hands of his attorney and city lawyers and the clerk he is accused of harassing in a sexually charged text message in October 2019. Clemenzi said he never intended to hurt anyone with his comments or behavior.
Things, Cheeseman said on Friday, are “a little in the balance”.
On Monday, Clemenzi said he was on “uncharted territory” and acknowledged the confusion. But he said he was not considering his decision to resign.
“I had it,” he said. “I don’t want to sound disrespectful to anyone. I thought it (the harassment complaint) went to bed, but it wasn’t.”
Clemenzi said his family was his main concern, followed by the city. “I love this city,” he said. “I’ve been here for 42 years. I want to make sure what I do is in the best interests of the city.”
He also said the prospect of a lengthy trial was worrying. “Who wants to live their life like this?” he said.
Clemenzi was expected to only announce last week that he would not run for re-election in the upcoming May city elections, but he abruptly announced his resignation during the meeting.
At the time, several hundred residents had signed an online petition asking him to resign.
The next scheduled hearing of the Board of Selectmen will take place on Tuesday evening. Without a quorum of members, Cheeseman has only put information items on the agenda, including a discussion of plans for a special election.
Clemenzi said on Monday that he did not know whether he would attend the meeting.
Court reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, email at [email protected], or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.