WARREN, Mich. – Mayor Jim Fouts has been accused of being racially insensitive, but he insists that the alleged tapes of him speaking disparagingly aren't real and have been edited together by political enemies.
Under oath, however, it's a different story. Right now, the alleged recordings sit at the center of a lawsuit filed by a woman who spent 10 years as Warren's only black police officer. Her attorneys believe that culture was fostered by the mayor and that those tapes prove it.
It's the secret tape recording controversy that will not go away. Residents are wondering if it's Fouts' voice unedited on the tapes.
Fouts does not want to talk about those tape recordings -- especially under oath. He flat out refused to talk about them in a deposition.
"He had an opportunity to answer the question," said attorney Leonard Mungo. "But he did not answer the question as to whether or not that was his voice."
Local 4 legal expert Neal Rockind said dodging the question in a deposition could hurt the city's chances in the ongoing lawsuit regarding racial alleged discrimination in the police force. Rockind said it's a tough place for Fouts and his lawyers to be in and they likely only bought the mayor more time until he has to answer the question.
"At some point, the mayor will have to answer," Rockind said.
DeShiela Howlett filed a lawsuit alleging multiple racial problems at the Police Department. Howlett was hired in 2007 as the first African American police officer in Warren's history.
"I was compared to a gorilla," Howlett said. "People don't understand the history of black people and why that is so demeaning."
Howlett claims white police officers were slow to provide backup for her because of the color of her skin.
Fouts said he has nothing to do with Howlett's case, but he finds himself in the thick of it becuase the suit claims the mayor allowed a culture of racial animosity in Warren. Howlett's attorney wants the tape recordings entered as evidence and the mayor questioned under oath in front of a jury.
Oral arguments have been scheduled for Wednesday. The judge will decide if the mayor and the tapes are a part of the case or not.
A statement from Raechel M. Badalamenti, Fout's attorney, can be read below.
Mayor Fouts is not a party and had no involvement in Ms. Howlett’s separation of employment from the Warren Police Department. The Mayor was called to testify in her case to confirm he is not in charge of training and does not implement policies for the Warren Police Department. It was my job to make sure only relevant topics were raised at that deposition. I did just that with my instruction to the Mayor. Weeks later, the federal judge denied Ms. Howlett’s Motion to Compel the Mayor to listen to the manufactured audio recordings and answer questions about them in a second deposition. That closed the issue. It is appalling to see her lawyer suggesting otherwise.