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April 26, 2013

Warren mayor’s ‘threats’ reportedly under investigation

Fouts says private calls were apparently recorded without his knowledge, labels it ‘despicable’

By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer

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Mayor Jim Fouts said he learned through the media that a political appointee reportedly turned what he thought were private phone conversations over to the Michigan State Police for investigation.

WARREN — They say every man has a boiling point. It sounds like Warren Mayor Jim Fouts reached his during a pair of recent phone conversations with an administrative appointee.

Two profanity-laced tirades by Fouts, recorded by an as-of-yet unnamed appointee and allegedly aimed at two also unnamed political foes who happen to be former city employees, were reportedly turned over to the Michigan State Police for investigation sometime in mid-April.

Nobody in the loop at City Hall April 26, including the mayor, was willing to go on the record and name the man who recorded the conversations. But a review of the recordings, made available under the condition that the two targets of the mayor’s ire would not be identified for now, revealed what sounded like a private conversation between an employee and his boss gone ballistic.  

A source confirmed the audio from two separate phone conversations between Fouts and the appointee was recorded over the weekend April 6 and April 7.

The conversations, interspersed with expletives and violent statements, covered a variety of topics: Fouts’ profile on Wikipedia, statements made on the Warren Forum online message board and the fallout from a federal lawsuit filed by a former assistant city attorney.

At one point, a man who sounded like the mayor said he’d beat one of the former employees — a known political rival of his — with a baseball bat if he saw him on the street. The recorded audio also includes a statement about getting a gun and blowing the former employee’s head off.

A source with knowledge of the materials given to the Michigan State Police said the violent events reported across the country in recent months served as motivation to seek further investigation and that the comments were “not something that could go unnoticed.”

It remained unclear April 26 where the reported investigation would lead, but Fouts maintained he’s done nothing wrong and that he planned to meet with investigators in the days to come.

“Maybe what I have to do is say to myself, unless it is my priest, my physician or my attorney, I can’t say anything, and that’s wrong,” Fouts told the Warren Weekly. “I have taken the initiative to contact the State Police and insist that we meet as soon as possible, and they can ask me any questions they want.”

The mayor said the “low level” appointee who recorded the audio would keep his job, but that he viewed the appointee’s decision to disclose private telephone conversations as a betrayal, a “breach of confidentiality” and a “political ambush.”

“This is dirty tricks. It’s underhanded,” Fouts said. “I think it’s disturbing to anybody who has a sense of decency and a sense of right and wrong.

“It’s despicable. It’s a new low in politics,” Fouts said.

The mayor also issued a press release to say he only learned through the media that the recorded phone conversations were given to the Michigan State Police.

He declined to address specific statements included in the recordings, pending a review of the materials in the presence of investigators.

“I have not violated any laws and I am affronted by any insinuations that I have violated any laws,” Fouts said in his prepared statement. “I will cooperate in every way when I am contacted by the State Police.”

The mayor said he hadn’t decided if he’d hire an attorney to accompany him to the police interview.

Reached by phone April 26, Warren City Council Secretary and Mayor Pro Tem Scott Stevens said it wasn’t the first time he’d heard the mayor make violent statements in anger, or ones directed at perceived adversaries.

He said he once repeatedly heard the mayor speak harshly about another former appointee and about “gouging his eyes out.”

“I thought he was just venting, that he was mad,” Stevens said. “He wouldn’t let it go. He carries it on and it goes on forever.

“Venting, you say something, and it’s usually something stupid, and you just let it go. He’s unable to let it go. It’s not venting with him,” Stevens said. “I don’t think we can afford to take it lightly. At a minimum, it needs to be investigated. Maybe it’s just extreme stress or something. I don’t know.”

A call placed to the Michigan State Police public information officer seeking details for this report was not immediately returned.

Look for updates on this developing story at www.candgnews.com or follow the Warren Weekly on Facebook at www.facebook.com/warrenweekly.

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