Warren Mayor Jim Fouts delivered a speech in 2016 to a sell-out crowd of city big-wigs. Nearly 500 attended. Tickets were $40 to $50 per person. The event helped fund a pro-Fouts political group run by one of his most-trusted aides.
Yet, the mayor claims he never knew the event was a campaign fundraiser – an event illegally funded, in part, by taxpayers.
State election officials didn’t buy it. They have determined that the luncheon, fraudulently billed as a routine mayoral address, was a violation of the state campaign finance law and the city must be reimbursed. If not, Fouts will face further legal action and state fines.
The Secretary of State’s Office concluded that a payback to the city treasury of $761.90 is necessary after city employees organized the elaborate event on work time, with city materials, and the speech had been advertised within envelope-enclosed water bills mailed to 50,000 Warren homes and businesses.
Yet, the outrageous aspects of this event go far beyond several hundred dollars.
The bizarre plan was to convert the annual, heavily attended State of the City Address by the mayor of Michigan’s third-largest municipality into a money-maker. Rather than an event arranged by the civic-minded Macomb County Chamber of Commerce, as in the past, Fouts’ political action committee (PAC) exploited it as a cash cow.
The fall guy in this little fiasco is public works director Richard Sabaugh, another of Fouts’ top advisers. Sabaugh, a 50-year veteran in Macomb Countypolitics, told WXYZ-TV that it was all his fault and he will reimburse the city out of his own pocket. Sounds like a Michael Cohen kind of thing to do.
Fouts’ excuse – that he was oblivious — is just one of many far-fetched explanations the 75-year-old mayor has offered publicly to mask his bad behavior since he was first elected mayor in 2007.
A former longtime bomb-thrower on the Warren City Council, the most egregious among Fouts’ claims as mayor came in 2017 after audio tapes surfaced in which Fouts engaged in racist and misogynistic remarks, plus cruel commentary about Special Olympics kids. Afterward, his brazen reaction was that the ugly statements made on the recordings were not his voice, though they were apparently secretly taped while he was talking with his staff. A voice-recognition expert declared that it was His Honor on those tapes. A ridiculous defense destroyed.
Other bizarre excuses have come forward when Mayor Fouts faced various controversies, such as when he repeatedly lied about his age or when he was videotaped during a romantic rendezvous with his much younger secretary.
The mayor’s paranoia, with Fouts declaring that someone is out to get him, is routinely on display. For example, the quirky mayor, a lifelong bachelor, has allegedly created a trust fund that, upon his death, will finance an ongoing campaign against his political enemies. One local official has called it Fouts’ “revenge fund.”
What’s more, the idea that two top mayoral aides, without Fouts’ knowledge, essentially transformed his annual State of the City Address into a campaign fundraiser – a fairly unprecedented move – is absurd.
Among his many faults, the eccentric mayor is well known as a bully and a control freak within City Hall. He reportedly reacts angrily, even violently, when city employees and officials don’t follow his wishes.
One time he threw a chair in the city clerk’s office. Another time he lunged at the city treasurer. And then there was the previous audio-taped incident in 2013, when he engaged in a profanity-laced tirade describing how he wanted to murder a former assistant city attorney with a baseball bat.
He somehow dodged that third controversy. And won re-election yet again.
In Jim Fouts’ world, he is smarter than everyone else, he is never wrong, and he never makes mistakes. The blame always lies with someone else.
Based on his lame excuse that the distinctive voice on those 2017 racist/sexist tapes was not him, I’m surprised the mayor didn’t offer a similar explanation for that 2016 speech that has now been deemed illegal.
When he was first investigated for the speech-turned-money-maker two years ago, I’m wondering why the delusional mayor didn’t simply declare that the man standing at the microphone at that event wasn’t him. Looked like him. Sounded like him. But, no, it was an impostor participating in yet another plot to ruin the mayor’s reputation.
At this moment, Fouts is probably kicking himself, questioning why he didn’t come up with that alibi.