Warren council approves probe of mayor's consultant hire

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

The Warren City Council has approved launching an investigation into Mayor Jim Fouts hiring of a political consultant to a full-time post, alleging he didn't inform them as required and claiming the new hire could violate state law and city charter.

Republican consultant Jamie Roe has been on the city payroll as a full-time clerical technician since last year without the mayor formally notified council as the city charter mandates, said Council Secretary Mindy Moore during a special council meeting Tuesday night.

Jamie Roe

The council alleges Roe, who has worked for officeholders including Candice Miller, Macomb County Public Works commissioner, was secretly appointed; collected city paychecks while earning thousands of dollars managing political campaigns; and launched a political consulting company as well as generated more than 100 social media posts while working on city time.

Moore accused Roe of violating the city charter and a code of ethics as well as state law prohibiting public employees from engaging in such efforts while working.

Fouts did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday night on the vote.

The mayor previously told The Detroit News that Roe wasn't hired secretly and called Roe a “hard-working employee involved in the city’s public service office” and on-call seven days a week, “day or night.”

During audience comments at the virtual meeting, Roe defended himself, saying he had been involved in the city's COVID-19 vaccine rollout and other efforts. He told the council he "made no secret" about his campaign work and denounced their call to investigate him.

"The council has no interest in any other topic other than destroying this mayor and anyone who helps him save this city," Roe said.

The council unanimously approved a motion requesting documents and electronic records related to Roe's employment. It also seeks to forward the matter to the Michigan Secretary of State and Attorney General, as well as federal authorities for review of any violations of agreements or laws.

Council Vice President Garry Watts noted Roe gained his position, which Warren documents list as paying about $44,000 a year, at a time when the city sought to hire more emergency personnel.

"I certainly think that we, or better yet, the citizens of Warren, deserve to know what the hell was going on up there," he said before vote.

Roe called on the council to "stop this nonsense. If you go forward with this targeting of me, do so with the understanding that I will not be bullied."

City Attorney Ethan Vinson told the council he was aware of Roe's hire and the consultant deserves due process.

"I learned in law school what due process is, and due process is fundamental fairness," he said. "Tonight has not been fundamentally fair to Mr. Roe."

But several council members questioned whether Roe worked at all.

"This is a hidden employee. This is a shadow employee who has not done any work for the city," Council President Pat Green said. "If he did work on the vaccine rollout, I applaud him, I applaud the mayor for getting that done at City Hall. But that sounds like a story, not a fact."

Moore said Fouts "secretly" hired Roe in March 2020,  as the city faced furloughs and layoffs amid the pandemic.

"I find that so offensive," she said. "... It’s just bizarre and the mayor, when he was a councilman …  he railed and railed and railed against any kind of political consultants and activities on city time. I have to wonder: who’s running City Hall? Because I cannot believe that the mayor would do this."

Some audience members who spoke during the meeting criticized the council for its vote.

"We have yet to see this do-nothing council focus on the residents rather than just continuously attacking the administration," Gary Jury told them.

Another community member, Lori Harris, supported the council.

"I applaud your willingness and desire to get the right answers and figure out what’s really going on," she said.

The requests and referrals for investigations "will be made in the next couple of days," Moore told The News after the vote Tuesday night.