GOP consultant's hiring for city job sparks spat in Warren
Warren City Council officials are upset with what they call the “secret” appointment of a political consultant to a full-time job by Mayor James Fouts. At least two members believe the appointment may be in violation of the city’s charter and state law.
Republican consultant Jamie Roe, who has worked for officeholders including Candice Miller, Macomb County Public Works commissioner, has been on the city payroll as a clerical technician for at least 10 weeks without Fouts going through the traditional process of obtaining approval by the council, critics say.
“His Facebook posts indicate he has set up a full-time political consulting company and it appears he has been doing this on city time," said Council President Pat Green. "The matter will be discussed at the council’s legal affairs committee Monday morning and will likely prompt a vote by the full council in a special meeting as early as Tuesday night.
“We will have to make the determination of whether this warrants a full investigation,” said Green. “It is not right for somebody to be doing consulting work on city time."
Green said while Fouts has the power to make appointments, the council oversight process has been ignored. While council need not approve appointments, the body can formally disapprove them. He added the concerns to be addressed by the Legal Affairs Committee include the following:
•Possible violation of the city charter and state law for conducting political activities on city time
•Violation of the city charter by appointing a full-time official without proper notification to city council
•The City Council’s right to terminate the appointment pursuant to the charter
•Production of documents including but not limited to Mr. Roe’s appointment letter, payroll records, emails, keycard access records, job application, acknowledgement of ethics code, and computer access records
•Potential reforms including strengthening ethics ordinance and requiring written job descriptions for all appointed officials.
“What is a clerical technician anyway?” said council secretary Mindy Moore, noting that the city's offices remain shuttered amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Is it filing? Typing papers? Answering phones? All of that is pretty hard to do when city hall is closed. How do you do all that or train for all of that at home?”
Moore said Roe is being paid $44,000 a year. She described it as another example of Fouts being at odds with council members on how the city should be run. She noted it has already resulted in litigation, a court order and the hiring of two city attorneys: one that represents Fouts and the mayor’s office and a law firm hired by city council to its interests.
Roe defended his work with the city and criticized the council members in a statement to The Detroit News.
"I’m on call 24/7 for the people of Warren and I’m particularly proud of the work we did this week to provide COVID-19 vaccines to thousands of Warren residents," he said. "Like many city employees I have outside interests.
"Watching this council threaten and attempt to intimidate and harass hard working employees is sickening, but not unexpected," Roe said. "I wish the do-nothing council would do something to help us beat COVID-19 instead of distract from the positive work being done by this administration."
The controversy comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation seeking the names, positions and salaries of all city employees.
“They were provided positions and pays but the question about names has not been decided by the court,” Moore said.
“I’ve have had so many unusual things going on here that I thought I had seen it all, but I find this shocking,” she said. “I served on city council with Jim Fouts and it’s the type of thing he used to rail about.”
Fouts described the actions by Green and Moore as “another effort to distract people from all the good things we are doing in Warren.”
Fouts said the city has stepped up weekly COVID-19 testing, vaccination efforts for residents through a clinic conducted by Walgreen's and McLaren Health Care, and a food program for people in need. He described Roe as a “hard-working employee involved in the city’s public service office” and on-call seven days a week, “day or night.”
“People like Jamie Roe have been instrumental and essential in getting Walgreen’s (clinic) to Warren, other businesses,” said Fouts. “But city council would rather target him — like they have other of my appointees with bogus charges to distract residents of the job they are doing.
“Secret? Council was sent notification a year ago that he was to be hired on,” Fouts said. “For them to say they just learned about it is nothing but a lie.
“They can hold all the meetings they want and call them whatever they want — I think their ‘legal affairs committee’ is nothing but a persecution committee.”
On Thursday, Roe and his wife, Liz, announced they were establishing a full-service consulting firm, Team Roe.
"My primary focus will always be getting great people elected to office, helping advance issues we care deeply about, and assisting great Michigan companies get their message across," Roe said in a statement announcing the firm. "Liz will continue to advocate for great causes, writing grants for nonprofit organizations and helping member organizations to elevate their voice in the community. Our combined focus will be to help make Michigan a better place.”
Green and Moore noted several political-oriented social media postings by Roe, some during work hours.
“I don’t know if he has posted things on social media during the work day but if it's after hours — he can do whatever he wants, that’s his personal business,” said Fouts, who said he was unaware of any consulting announcement by Roe.