Warren presses for answers in Fouts controversy

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Warren — The city’s leadership has taken steps to unravel the controversy surrounding Mayor Jim Fouts and vile audio recordings as well as a state probe into one of the mayor’s fundraisers.

The City Council has agreed to require its embattled mayor to investigate recordings that surfaced twice in the past month that captured either Fouts or someone who sounds like him demeaning older women, African-Americans and disabled people.

The resolution, which passed 4-3 on Tuesday, calls for the mayor to use state and local agencies to assist him in determining the source and accuracy of the recordings. If the voice is proven to be Fouts’ on the audio clips, the council said he should resign.

Fouts didn’t attend Tuesday’s council meeting and hasn’t returned calls from The Detroit News. In a series of Facebook posts, he has denied it’s him on the audio clips.

The council on Tuesday 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 Rep. 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.

Dozens of residents and community members spoke out about the recordings during the meeting Tuesday. Some expressed their support, saying they didn’t believe it was Fouts on the tapes, while others called for Fouts to resign.

Mayor Pro-tem Kelly Colegio said the controversy has divided the city.

“How long is this going to go on?” Colegio said. “We have a city held hostage.”

The council voted down a proposal from Councilman Scott Stevens that would have called for Fouts to take a lie detector test and voice recognition analysis for the recordings.

“I agree that the mayor has his First Amendment rights, but not on the taxpayers’ dime,” Stevens said.

Council members also expressed disappointment with the person who released the audio recordings and won’t come forward.

The most recent recordings were published by Motor City Muckraker earlier this month. The website did not reveal its source.

“What happened to the right of a person to confront their accuser?” Councilman Ronald Papandrea said. Why is the person who made these tapes hiding?”

Several elected officials in Warren and across the region have called for Fouts to resign amid the scandal.

Fouts has said he will not step down.

He said 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.”

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Twitter: @NicquelTerry