Warren council wants probe of alleged Fouts tapes

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Warren — Allegations that Mayor Jim Fouts made crude, recorded remarks about disabled people, older women and African-Americans have divided the community and took another twist Tuesday when the City Council called for Fouts to probe the source of the recordings.

The resolution to investigate the controversial tapes came during a meeting that lasted five hours, often peppered with shouts and applause as supporters and foes of Fouts took their turn speaking before the council, some calling for his resignation, others coming to his defense.

Council voted 4-3 to require Fouts to conduct the investigation into the recordings, after Coucilman Robert Boccomino proposed the resolution.

The council also voted 4-3 to hire the Miller Canfield law firm to represent the city in a state investigation into whether Fouts used city resources to promote a fundraiser that was held in conjunction with his State of the City Address in April 2016.

In a letter addressed to Fouts, the Secretary of State said it was probing a complaint filed by former state representative Leon Drolet accusing Fouts of using the event to raise money for an independent political action committee.

The fundraiser was reportedly advertised in a water bill insert, according to the Secretary of State.

Another resolution that called for Fouts to take a lie detector test failed with the council Tuesday night.

Warren residents attended a city council meeting Tuesday night to criticize and defend Mayor Jim Fouts. Some demanded the mayor resign.

Dozens in a crowd of more than 300 approached the council Tuesday night to offer their take on the controversy swirling in their city.

“You will not ruin the great city of Warren; we are here to protect it,” said Elaine Stusick-Ziemke. “Kick him out now.”

Bishop C.J. Andre of Warren spoke in support of Fouts, quoting the Bible: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

“I am here to say that I have never, ever, ever heard Mayor Fouts say anything derogatory,” Andre said.

Fouts was not at the meeting Tuesday, and council members say he is not required to attend.

Councilwoman Kelly Colegio, mayor pro tem, called for the FBI to investigate the tapes.

“If these are falsely recorded tapes, this lies in their category,” Colegio said.

Fouts’ absence was noted Tuesday.

“He needs to stand up as the mayor of this city and defend his rights,” said one man who spoke before the council. “He’s not going to defend himself. He’s going to hide behind all the lies that he’s stated. He should stand behind the truth and take a test and prove his innocence.”

The meeting turned disorderly at times with members of the crowd interrupting speakers they didn’t agree with or shouting “Mayor Fouts resign.”

One person held up a poster with the words signs said “Resign” and “Fouts Out.”

“We need a leader who will respect the residents,” said Evelyn Trindade, a 30-year resident of Warren. “I am asking you City Council members to demand his resignation.”

Several residents who defended the mayor said he has a proven track record of hiring older women, African-Americans and helping disabled residents.

They also said it was unfair to ask Fouts to resign without proof that he is guilty of making the comments.

One woman discussed the technology that is available to engineer audio to sound like someone’s voice. “It can be done,” she said.

“I believe in the man, he’s got integrity,” said Leroy Holmes. “That man’s not guilty, that is not Fouts.”

Bonnie Kern of Warren and her friends held up framed photographs of the mayor appearing behind a bird cage. Kern said she was heartbroken when she heard a recording of the mayor allegedly saying disabled people should be in a cage in the release of the first tape. Kern said her two adult sons are disabled.

“Nothing is being done about it,” said Kern, who also spoke out at the last council meeting. “I haven’t heard him come out and apologize. I haven’t heard him come out and say he’ll take a lie detector test.”

Betty Witkowski was at the meeting to support Kern, but she said she didn't care if Fouts resigned.

"He's telling people he didn't say it," Witkowski said. "Well, get out here and tell us and prove to us that you didn't."

Fouts has said the voice on the recordings is not his and that the recordings were manufactured, writing in a Facebook post earlier this month that the controversy is a “tremendous” effort “to force me out immediately by slander, by character assassination, lies, and by outright condemnation of me.”

The controversy has embroiled Fouts for weeks. He has said he would not resign.

In December, someone who sounds like Fouts was heard on a recording calling disabled people "dysfunctional human beings."

Some elected officials also have called on Fouts to resign after the latest tapes were released..

He has declined an offer from a Warren City councilman to pay for a voice analysis to prove the tapes were not authentic.