Warren ― On his final day in office, former Warren Mayor Jim Fouts vetoed the City Council’s approval of three months of payments to their contracted law firm, but the council’s attorney said the action is unenforceable.
Since spring 2020, Warren City Council has retained Bloomfield Hills-based law firm Plunkett Cooney for its legal representation instead of using the city attorney, Ethan Vinson. Last Tuesday, the council approved $76,494.44 to Plunkett Cooney for invoices dated between Aug. 1 and Oct. 31, according to Fouts and the council’s attorney, Jeffrey Schroder.
But on Friday, Fouts’ last day working inside City Hall, he vetoed the council’s action.
“Before I exit office today, I will leave on the high note by taking one final stand against this questionable use of tax dollars, specifically $76,494.44 for an outsider to sit with City Council!” he said in the veto letter addressed to City Clerk Sonja Buffa. “There is nothing in the charter that allows the council to hire an outside law firm crony to sit in place of the appointed city attorney.”
The council and the mayor have sued each other numerous times over the last four years. Those lawsuits cover topics ranging from this year’s mayoral election to approving the city’s budget and paying for a firefighter cadet training program.
Background:‘Was it a waste of tax dollars?’: What Warren spent on lawsuits between mayor, council
Schroder said a court order will supersede the veto. In Nov. 2021, Macomb Circuit Court Judge Julie Gatti ordered the payment of invoices ― that were outstanding at the time ― to the law firms representing the council and Fouts’ administration. The judge also ordered the parties to follow a settlement that they had agreed to.
The settlement, which has been approved the previous month, requires the city to pay Plunkett Cooney for invoices approved by the council.
“This is the outgoing mayor’s parting shot at the City Council and the reputable firm of Plunkett Cooney in representation of the City Council for the last four years,” Councilman Jonathan Lafferty said.
Warren City Councilwoman Mindy Moore said Fouts’ veto “has no power as of now.”
Fouts criticized Schroder in his veto letter.
“Mr. Schroder perched himself with Council, sent the real City Attorney to the back of the room, and nothing but conflict has come of it,” he wrote.
Fouts’ letter said his veto also was “on grounds of transparency.” According to Fouts, some of the invoices say they are regarding “Warren City Council/municipal matters.
“‘Warren City Council/municipal matters’ means nothing,” Fouts said. “What is the nature of the work?”
Schroder said that the municipal matters include his legal work on an alleged violation by Fouts of state campaign finance laws as well as work drafting city resolutions and attending council meetings.