Editorial: Fouts must explain himself

The Detroit News

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts is accused of saying some despicable things about developmentally disabled people, calling time he’s had to spend with them the worst part of being mayor. He’s also accused of saying they should be euthanized, since they’re “not even human beings.”

The mayor says it’s not his voice on the tape released by Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, who’s embroiled in a separate fight with Fouts. But it certainly sounds like him and the matter must be cleared up.

An audio forensic expert contacted by The News said there’s an 80 percent chance the voice on the tape recording is Fouts’, though he can’t be fully certain unless the mayor cooperates in producing another recording duplicating the words. The mayor can’t be compelled to do that, but it is in his best interest to do so. The trust and confidence in his ability to lead has suffered because of these accusations.

As an elected official, Fouts owes a complete explanation to his constituents and those in Metro Detroit who have dealings with him. He doesn’t get to hide behind Facebook posts or denials – which is so far all he’s issued in response to the allegations.

If it is him on the tape, the mayor must answer for the insulting, dehumanizing way in which he regards people with developmental disabilities. It is beyond reprehensible that anyone in public office could hold those views, much less that an officeholder would share them with staff or whoever else was in the room at the time of the recordings.

In the recordings, the speaker alleged to be the mayor acknowledged he could never admit the views publicly for fear of the kind of backlash that is coming now.

Hackel had a motive in embarrassing Fouts. The two are engaged in a feud over accusations by Fouts that Hackel allowed dumping on the grounds of the Freedom Hill entertainment complex. Fouts has called for a state investigation. That’s an unfortunate situation between two public officials, but now the fight has gotten even uglier.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley called the comments about developmentally disabled people the worst he has ever heard. He’s right.

It’s hard to see how an elected official could hold such disparaging views of any group of people and still remain in office. At a minimum, developmentally disabled people in Warren must worry about the possibility that they are being governed by a person who denies their basic humanity or their access to services.

Fouts must cooperate with efforts to clarify whether he made these incendiary statements.

And as the one who released the recordings, Hackel must provide all the evidence he has to prove that the speaker is really Fouts.