Consultant: Fouts called Kwame Kilpatrick an 'N-word,'

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
Warren Mayor Jim Fouts

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts called Kwame Kilpatrick the N-word on election night 2007, according to a Macomb County political adviser, the latest in a string of racist, sexist and controversial slurs linked to the suburban mayor in recent years.

Political consultant Joe DiSano leveled the previously undisclosed allegation during a sworn deposition in a racial-bias suit filed against the city by an African-American former Warren police officer.

DiSano's deposition was filed in federal court Friday in former police officer DeSheila Howlett's continuing attempt to show Fouts failed to provide diversity and anti-discriminatory training and repeatedly used discriminatory and racist language.

During his April deposition, DiSano described a discussion in November 2007 on the night Fouts, a longtime city councilman, won his first election as mayor. DiSano tried to arrange a phone call between Fouts, the newly minted mayor of Michigan's third-largest city, and Kilpatrick, the mayor of Detroit. 

"And at first — the phone call never actually happened, but the mayor said why would I want to talk to that N word," DiSano said, according to a deposition transcript filed in federal court.

"Mayor Fouts said why do I want to talk to that N word, meaning n-----?" Howlett’s attorney, Leonard Mungo, asked.

"That would be accurate, yes," DiSano said.

"Okay. And he was referencing (Kwame) Kilpatrick?" Mungo asked.

"Correct," DiSano said.

Kwame Kilpatrick

Fouts denied calling Kilpatrick an "N-word."

"Absolutely not," Fouts said during an interview Monday.

Fouts said DiSano never worked on his campaign, though state records show his campaign paid a $3,875 consultation retainer for polling to DiSano's firm Main Street Strategies in February 2012. 

Fouts said DiSano had wanted a paid position with Fouts, but Fouts refused. Fouts said they also had political differences.  

“He is not part of my administration and has never been part of my inner circle,” Fouts said.

Fouts said the release of the deposition was timed to disrupt the city of Warren's MLK Day celebration.

DiSano's testimony about Fouts is untrue, Warren city attorney Raechel Badalamenti wrote in an email to The News on Monday.

"He does not use that word," she wrote. "He is a trailblazer for equality and diversity, period."

DiSano is trying to oust Fouts from office, Badalamenti said.

"The mayor and I are both appalled at DiSano’s efforts to get this story rolling today while the mayor is readying to lead his annual MLK celebration in City Hall," she wrote. "He will focus on that celebration only today. But I felt it important to comment when asked because Mayor Fouts has been a trailblazer for diversity in the city including the appointment of minorities to the top offices in his administration."

In the past several years, Fouts has been accused of making disparaging comments about people with disabilities, African-Americans and women on audio recordings, including several published by the website Motor City Muckraker.

Fouts has said it wasn't his voice on those recordings.

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During his deposition in August, Fouts declined to answer questions about whether he disparaged African-Americans.

During Fouts' Aug. 23 deposition, Howlett’s attorney brought up the tapes.

“Sir, is that your voice on these recordings degrading African Americans?” he asked Fouts.

Badalamenti, who is representing Warren in the lawsuit, objected and directed Fouts not to answer. The mayor replied: “I decline to answer the question on advice of counsel.”

DiSano said he heard Fouts use the N-word twice, according to his deposition transcript.

Fouts repeated the slur during a 2013 meeting at City Hall that focused on African-Americans and the city's changing demographics, DiSano said.

"This was the meeting where he stood up and did a dance like a monkey and made sounds like a monkey," DiSano said. "I was shocked."

"... what was the basis of the mayor acting like that, in your opinion?" Mungo asked. "Was it in any way related to the discussion about African Americans, in your opinion?"

"In my opinion, I believe that the attempted joke and the conversation we were having were connected," DiSano said. 

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