Warren’s Fouts defiant as calls for resignation grow

Nicquel Terry, and Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts on Tuesday remained defiant in the face of growing calls for his resignation after the release of crude new recordings disparaging blacks and older women.

Critics say it’s clear the voice on the recordings belongs to Fouts, and that he should step down if he cannot — or will not — prove otherwise.

Local political leaders denounced Fouts during the Detroit Economic Club’s annual “Big Four” luncheon Tuesday at Cobo Center, with Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel alleging the mayor routinely exposes city employees to “hate speech.”

“The reality is it’s his voice,” Hackel said at the luncheon. “He’s going to have to at least own the issue (and) figure out how does he make some kind of amends with the people he’s offended ... either look for forgiveness or step down.”

Hackel, who released separate recordings in December of Fouts allegedly making disparaging comments about people with special needs, said he did not release the new recordings and does not know who did. But Hackel said he believes the new tapes did come from a city employee or former employee.

“Some of them are exposed to this on a regular basis but are afraid to come forward and say something,” Hackel said.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who joined Hackel on stage Tuesday with Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, called for Fouts to resign if it’s truly his voice on the recordings.

Duggan, a former Wayne County prosecutor, said if someone altered the recordings to make it sound like Fouts — as Fouts as claimed — the mayor needs to go to the Michigan State Police to file a crime report.

“If he doesn’t go and file a criminal charge, he needs to resign,” Duggan said.

Evans echoed Duggan. Patterson added: “I think he’s probably ended his career.”

Fouts has denied he is the person making the comments on the recordings, writing in a Facebook post Tuesday that the controversy is a “tremendous” effort “to force me out immediately by slander, by character assassination, lies, and by outright condemnation of me.”

“This is an attempt to reverse the 2015 election results when I won with 85 percent of the vote,” Fouts wrote. “I won with 81 percent in 2011. This is despite solid evidence that I did nothing wrong whatsoever. My actions as Mayor have been inclusive and no one can deny that.

“We are the best run city in the state when it comes to police, fire, and fund balance. I will not resign. I will be here through at least 2019 as the people wanted me to. I will not capitulate to a rush to judgment by those who wish to take over city hall and hijack the 2015 election. Why? — Because I have changed things for the better in the city.”

Earlier Tuesday, several local and state officials also called for Fouts to resign amid the release of the new audio recordings.

The officials, who all represent Warren residents, say they recognize the voice on the clip to be Fouts and called the remarks “hateful” and “racist” and “disparaging of women.”

The officials named in the statement were U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, state Sen. Steve Bieda, state Rep. Henry Yanez, state Rep. John Chirkun, state Rep. Patrick Green, Macomb County Commissioner Andrey Duzyj, Macomb County Commissioner Veronica Klinefelt and Macomb County Commissioner Marvin Sauger.

“The leader of our state’s third largest city should be a role model for how we treat each other and anyone that harbors these feelings and expresses them is not fit to lead,” the officials said in a statement released Tuesday. “We believe that these comments and the previous comments about people with disabilities do not represent the people of the city of Warren.”

The officials said they also would have preferred if the person providing the recordings, first published on the website Motor City Muckraker, turned them over to authorities for investigation.

Later Tuesday, Warren City Treasurer Lorie Barnwell also called on the mayor to step down.

“I appreciate the many positive things that Mayor Fouts has done for the city of Warren and consider him a friend,” Barnwell said. “Therefore, it greatly pains me to call for the mayor to resign unless he can offer compelling support for the claim that the recently released tapes have been ‘doctored.’ ”

Fouts has previously accused Hackel of releasing the clips to retaliate against the mayor for filing a complaint to the state attorney general about “illegal dumping” at Freedom Hill.

Joe DiSano, a former Fouts aide, told The Detroit News that city employees often record meetings with Fouts because he backtracks on things he says.

“That’s why there are so many tapes on him around,” said DiSano, adding that he severed ties with Fouts because he no longer felt comfortable working for him.

Fouts blasted DiSano in a separate Facebook post Tuesday, saying: “Joe Disano wanted a job with the city of Warren and I didn’t agree to it. As a result he has held a grudge against me ever since.”

(313) 222-6793

Staff Writer Ian Thibodeau contributed.