Appointee of Warren Mayor James Fouts resigns amid investigation into his hiring

Oralandar Brand-Williams and Mark Hicks

A recent appointee of Warren Mayor James Fouts whose appointment has been mired in controversy amid speculation he was double-dipping as a city employee and political consultant has resigned in the latest battle between the mayor and the Warren City Council.

Fouts on Thursday announced the resignation of Jamie Roe, who worked for the public service department on special projects.

Jamie Roe

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"I have officially accepted the resignation of Jamie Roe a member of this administration. Jamie has been a very hard-working employee regarding organization and planning for the COVID-19 Vaccine Center last week as well as planning on the COVID Testing at city hall and, also the Forgotten Harvest food distribution every Monday," said Fouts in a press release Thursday. "He does an exemplary job. He's done the Census. He did work on COVID testing and he did a good job on that."

The mayor added Roe's resignation is "another example of a dedicated Warren employee" being targeted by City Council members and that those attacks make it difficult for the city to function properly.

"Jamie is not the first employee to be selectively targeted and we are currently in Macomb Circuit Court over previous targeting of the City Attorney and Executive Administrator (Ethan Vincent)," said Fouts Thursday. "This targeting has resulted in a lawsuit by the council to defend their targeting. This is a costly lawsuit initiated by the council costing an estimated 1/2 million dollars or more of taxpayer dollars."

On Tuesday Warren City Council members upset over what they call the “secret” appointment of Roe by Fouts last year authorized an investigation into the appointment. At least two council members believe the appointment may be in violation of the city’s charter and state law.

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

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, left, gives the keynote speech during the dedication of the Maybelle Burnette Branch Library in Warren, where Fouts was the keynote speaker.

The council alleges Roe, who has worked for other Macomb County elected officials including Candice Miller, Macomb County public works commissioner, was secretly appointed and that he collected city paychecks while earning thousands of dollars managing political campaigns. The allegations against Roe include complaints he launched a political consulting company as well as created more than 100 social media posts while working on city time.

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

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.

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. 

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."

Green told The News Thursday that Roe is "getting his due process with the investigation. If he is innocent of conducting political activity on city time he shouldn't resign. You can't conduct political activity on the taxpayer dollar. "

Green said the Michigan Attorney General's Office is being asked to investigate the allegations against Roe.

Fouts said the council's actions have had a "chilling effect" on Warren employees including denial of free speech, harassment, "repeated attempts to intimidate and embarrass" and that the council is intentionally targeting certain employees.

Fouts called the council's action a "reign of political terror."

The council unanimously approved a motion requesting documents and electronic records related to Roe's employment. 

Council Vice President Garry Watts noted Roe was hired and given a salary, which Warren city documents list as about $44,000 a year, at a time when the city is seeking 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 Tuesday.

Several council members questioned whether Roe did work for the city.

"This is a hidden employee. This is a shadow employee who has not done any work for the city," 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."