Warren City Council took no action against Mayor Jim Fouts after Motor City Muckraker posted recordings of him calling black people “chimps” and older women “dried-up cunts.”
The council rejected a proposal Tuesday night to call for an FBI investigation to determine the authenticity of the recordings. The council also turned down proposals to order an internal investigation and to urge the mayor to take a polygraph test.
Instead, some council members cast suspicions on the “rigged media” and demanded to know who provided Motor City Muckraker with the recordings. Council Secretary Robert Boccomino went a step further, suggesting the leaker of the recordings committed an act of “domestic terrorism.”
“We need to find out who is behind these tapes,” St. Pierre said near the end of a long, wild meeting that included more than two hours of spirited public comment. “Our city is divided. These tapes are causing real damage.”
Mayor Fouts declined to attend the meeting and has refused to speak publicly about the recordings, which he has insisted on Facebook are phony. Fouts hasn’t filed a police report alleging the recordings are fake and has rejected offers to undergo a voice analysis by an expert.
Audio experts said they aren’t aware of any technology that would seamlessly manufacture a voice like the one in the Fouts’ recordings.
Despite experts speaking out, Council President Cecil St. Pierre suggested the tapes are part of a “rigged media.”
After the meeting, St. Pierre dodged media questions and even falsely claimed a WDIV news crew assaulted him as he walked to the parking lot. He returned to the meeting room and requested a police escort. The reporter was asking questions from a safe distance about the baseless claims that the recordings were doctored and may be part of a “rigged media” conspiracy, despite audio experts confirming that the Fouts’ audio appears to be authentic.
At times, the council was more concerned about identifying the source of the recordings than trying to hold Fouts accountable.
For the record, Motor City Muckraker would never divulge a confidential source.
Saying she wasn’t sure what to make of the tapes, Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Colegio wanted the council to ask the FBI to investigate.
“I want to know the truth” about the recordings, Colegio said. “I am sure the FBI has the technology to say if they are real or aren’t real. … I want them to tell us what in the world is going on.”
Colegio’s suggestion didn’t get enough support from the council.
More than three hours earlier, dozens of residents took turns sharing their opinions of the once-popular, third-term mayor. About half of the speakers supported Fouts, while about half opposed him.
One business owner threatened to leave the city if Fouts was forced to resign.
“Warren Mayor Fouts has been the best thing to happen to this city,” the business owner said. “If he goes, my business is out. I know tons of other businesses will follow suit.”
Several pastors in Warren spoke in favor of the mayor, saying the recordings don’t reflect Fouts’ “integrity” or “character.”
Others disagreed. At least four current and former Warren employees said they’ve heard Fouts use similar disparaging phrases about black people, older women and people with disabilities.
Councilman Scott Stevens, for example, said he heard the mayor speak crudely about groups of people in the past. Fouts’ former political consultant, Joe DiSano, said he quit working for the mayor when he continued to use the N-word and once danced like a monkey in a conference room to mimic black people.
Rev. W.J. Rideout III, a civil rights activist, called out the pastors who were defending the mayor.
“Preachers, you can’t be sellouts,” Rideout said. “You got to be real.”
During a segment of Let It Rip on Fox 2 News, Councilman Ron Papandrea threatened to choke Rev. Rideout for saying the mayor should resign. The councilman was removed from the building by security, and on Tuesday, he unsuccessfully tried to end the council debate early.
A 70-year-old resident blasted the council for not taking action against the mayor at a previous meeting and implored members to “take him out.”
“You will not ruin the great city of Warren,” she said. “I will fight you. We will win.”
Dozens of union leaders and local, state and federal officials have called for Fouts to resign. He responded on Facebook that he’d rather die than step down.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.