Warren Mayor Fouts doesn't answer questions about tape recordings at deposition in racial bias case

Former Warren police officer suing city over racial bias

WARREN, Mich. – Warren Mayor Jim Fouts didn't answer questions about tape recordings that appeared to reveal him making disparaging remarks about women, African-Americans and people with disabilities during a deposition for a federal lawsuit filed by former police Officer DeSheila Howlett, who is suing the city over racial bias.

The closed legal proceeding happened in August and lasted 3 1/2 hours. Local 4 received the transcripts from the deposition on Friday.

The deposition was characterized as "extremely contentious" because of Howlett's attorney.

"Do you realize there have been allegations that you have expressed racial animus by using derogatory terms toward African-Americans?" attorney Leonard Mungo asked Fouts.

"I'm not going to let him answer that question," defense attorney Rachel Badalamenti said. "You are not going to bait this witness."

"(Do you realize) that there was a tape played with your voice -- with what is alleged to be your voice -- using the N-word, calling African-Americans (the N-word)?" Mungo asked.

Fouts was instructed by his defense attorneys not to answer the question. Another attorney told Mungo he'll be seeking sanctions because that line of questioning had been disallowed by the judge.

After more instruction from counsel, Fouts didn't answer the question.

"I decline to answer the question on the advice of counsel," Fouts said.

During a phone conversation Friday, Fouts reiterated that he believes the tapes were manufactured.

"I have the right to face my accuser," Fouts said. "I have the presumption of innocence. Obviously, whoever did this is ashamed of what they did, which is why they refuse to come forward. The fact is, as mayor, I've embraced diversity and been more inclusive than all the previous mayors put together."

Fouts said he's been very frustrated that this controversy is lingering. He said the lawsuit isn't about race, but about greed and getting money from Warren taxpayers.

About the Authors: