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January 24, 2014

Fouts: No link between staffer’s raise, Chicago trip

Proposal comes ‘in light of the current situation’ after video of mayor, assistant surfaces

By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer

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Warren Mayor Jim Fouts issued a statement Jan. 24 defending a recent raise given to a staff member. A video anonymously released online a day earlier appeared to show Fouts traveling with the female employee, walking arm-in-arm with her and later holding hands. On Jan. 28, Warren City Council voted against a new ethics ordinance proposed by Council Secretary Scott Stevens that would have addressed fraternization between city officers or employees and subordinates.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts issued a statement Jan. 24 to say trips, which appeared to include dinner and shopping in downtown Chicago with a staffer, had nothing to do with a pay raise the staffer received late last year.

But the strongly worded statement, released after video of what appears to be Fouts and executive assistant Amanda Mika surfaced online, did not address questions about whether the trip — and a recent pay raise for Mika — was appropriate, given what was seen on the video and their working relationship at City Hall.

The video, allegedly recorded by a private investigator in November 2012, shows what appears to be Fouts and Mika in the lobby of Chicago’s Drake Hotel, at dinner, shopping at the Apple Store and eventually strolling arm-in-arm — and later hand-in-hand — along the Windy City’s Magnificent Mile.

“First of all, any trips I took as Mayor of Warren were paid for by me personally,” Fouts said in the opening line of the statement. “Not one taxpayer cent was spent on any aspect of any trips I took.”

The anonymously circulated video, labeled by Fouts as “mean-spirited and scurrilous attacks" on his office, questioned an “11 percent raise” Mika recently reportedly received and prompted the response from Fouts, who said he approved adjusting the pay of two employees in the Mayor’s Office as compensation for additional job responsibilities.

A document attached to the mayor's statement appeared to show Mika made $50,000 and was given a $5,000 pay raise in December. A note included on the document indicated the raise was made effective Dec. 6 because she had reportedly assumed responsibility for preparing documentation from Fouts' office for the City Council agenda.  

“The trips in the video had nothing whatsoever to do with pay raises given to the executive assistant,” Fouts said in the statement. “To accuse me of this is a total misrepresentation of the facts in this matter.”

Fouts made no mention of Mika in the release and did not address the extent of his relationship with a subordinate city employee. 

Mika declined an opportunity to comment on the story and said by email, “The mayor’s statement speaks for itself.”

Reached for comment on the potential implications for the city, Warren City Council Secretary Scott Stevens said he introduced an ethics ordinance last year that covered relationships between city employees and subordinates out of concern for potential lawsuits that could result and put the city at financial risk. Stevens said he proposed the measure after a Detroit police officer filed a lawsuit against the city of Detroit and its former Chief of Police Ralph Godbee, alleging sexual harassment.

Stevens said the council failed to act on the proposal but that he would consider adding it to the agenda for the meeting on Jan. 28, after the Warren Weekly went to press.

“Is council in some way complicit if we know of something that’s happening and puts the city in jeopardy and do nothing?” Stevens said. “My main concern is potential lawsuits.”

Fouts had not returned a phone call seeking additional comment at press time. In the statement, he indicated he would take no further questions from the press on the topic.

“I hope this satisfies any media inquiries, and I will not be interviewed on this issue by the media because it will only distract me from my full-time job responsibilities as mayor of Michigan’s third-largest city in population,” Fouts said to close the statement. “Again, there was no connection whatsoever between any pay raise given to any employee and personal trips I took, and any media reports to the contrary could have legal consequences.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brian Louwers at brianlouwers@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1089.

'First of all, any trips I took as Mayor of Warren were paid for by me personally,” Fouts said in the opening line of the statement. “Not one taxpayer cent was spent on any aspect of any trips I took.”

The mayor likes to save the taxpayer money to pay for his legal fees and lawsuits.