WARREN, Mich. – The city of Warren has taken a lot of heat in the past year over allegations of racism.
In January 2017, audio tapes surfaced, and Mayor Jim Fouts was accused of making disparaging remarks toward black people. Fouts denies the allegations.
In December, the city's diversity director resigned. Now, he's under oath making new claims of outrageous racist behavior by key city officials.
Warren is Michigan's third-largest city, and the African-American population there has exploded, growing 300 percent. Black residents currently make up more than 16 percent of the Warren population.
Greg Murray's job as diversity director was to make Warren's workforce become as diverse as its people, but he quit his job, saying Fouts wasn't interested in seeing more minorities working for the city.
"The mayor walked into my office on three separate occasions and told me that he wanted to put diversity on the back burner until after the 2019 election because he feared a backlash from white voters who were not ready for diversity," Murray said.
The Mayor's Office quickly denied ever saying they wanted to put diversity on the back burner, insisting Fouts has appointed five black workers to run city departments and a minority-heavy planning commission.
Supporters said Fouts has done more to be progressive than all the Warren mayors before him combined.
But now, Murray has gone beyond words. He has testified under oath to what he saw in a sworn affidavit and in deposition for a racial discrimination lawsuit brought by Warren police Officer DeShiela Howlett. It adds credibility because if Murray is lying, he could be prosecuted and sent to jail.
"I feel that I have been duped and misled," Murray said. "I feel that I have been brought to the city under false pretenses that maybe he thought that I would be the kind of person who would tolerate his non-commitment, and that I would just collect a paycheck."
Murray said it's not just Fouts who wants to slow down progress. He called out former police commissioner Jere Green, saying, "It was represented to me by the mayor directly that Jere Green, the police commissioner, was a racist. Jere Green shared with the mayor that black people could not pass the test or the background checks."
He went on to say that the deputy mayor told him Green said, "The police commissioner went into a meeting with his command staff and shared with the command staff that he told the (N-word) to stay the (expletive) out of his house."
"Their employment practices are archaic," Murray said. "Their civil service process has not been revised. You have people who were there who would say things, like, 'Black people can't pass the test. They can't pass background checks. They can't pass written tests,' things of that nature."
Attorney Leonard Mungo put Murray under oath to show his client, Howlett, was put in danger by a racially insensitive police command and mayor.
"The backlash was they didn't provide her backup," Mungo said. "This is dangerous. Racism is deadly and it is a cancer that is eating at our entire country, and I think the city of Warren and Mayor Fouts can be the poster boy and the poster city, government for promoting racial division and hostility between the races across our country."
Local 4 reached out to attorney Jim Acho, who represents Fouts and Green, who responded by phone, calling the allegations ridiculous.
"I don't think Mr. Murray was telling the truth," Acho said. "I think this is tantamount to civil extortion. Murray is trying to hold the city over a barrel because he wanted a raise, plain and simple. He wanted a substantial boost in his salary after only being on the job for a matter of months. When Mayor Fouts wouldn't give him that substantial increase, all of a sudden, these issues arose."
Acho said Fouts is actively pursuing diversity and the Green is innocent of the allegations.
"Absolutely absurd," Acho said. "We don't believe that was ever stated. There is nobody in command in the city of Warren, especially in a supervisory capacity, much less the police commissioner, that would use that type of language."
Acho said he is not impressed that the allegations were made under oath.
"There is a lot of people who have been under oath who don't necessarily tell the truth," Acho said.
Warren officials said the story is far from over, and they're demanding another under-oath sit-down interview so they can cross-examine Murray on the allegations.