Warren residents and their elected officials are sharply divided in their opinions about the fate of the city’s longtime mayor, Jim Fouts.
That was on display at heated and sometimes wild city council meeting Tuesday night.
Leaked audio tapes seem to show Fouts mocking and degrading African Americans, disabled people, and others.
But many people defended Fouts, who claims the tapes are fakes concocted by his political enemies.
Warren resident John Renaud said the timing and nature of the anonymous leaks to media should raise suspicion.
“We all know that with technology today, tapes can be manipulated,” Renaud said, adding: “Where is the person who made these tapes?”
Renaud and others believe that Fouts is being set up by political rivals, led by Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel.
Hackel says he did release one tape recorded by a disgruntled Warren city employee, who wants to remain anonymous because of retribution fears. He calls Fouts’ allegations of faked tapes “incredible.”
Other Warren residents called for Fouts to resign, and urged the Council to use what powers it has to investigate and pressure Fouts out of office.
“When a mayor has lost respect for his citizens, I have lost respect for him,” said Marlene Dubiel. “And I feel there’s so much going on with this…just step down. It’s time.”
Fouts did not attend the meeting, but has said he won’t resign.
The Council voted down a resolution that asked Fouts to submit to polygraph and voice recognition tests. But it passed one asking Fouts to request a police investigation into the “accuracy and source” of the audio tapes, and “consider resignation” if they are authenticated.
The Council cannot force Fouts to do any of these things, or step down. A citizen-led recall is possible, but not until next year, under Michigan law. Fouts was re-elected in 2015 with about 85% of the vote.