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August 23, 2011

Fouts’ license expires, check reveals age question

“Embarrassed” mayor vows to renew license and clarify information

By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer

A routine check to confirm Mayor Jim Fouts’ personal information after his driver’s license expired earlier this month revealed conflicting date of birth records, a spokesman for the office of the Michigan Secretary of State said on Aug. 23.

Fouts, whose date of birth was questioned by some earlier this year after different documents appeared showed both 1942 and 1944 as his birth year, was left without a valid Michigan driver’s license when it officially expired on Aug. 9, Michigan Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams said.

“Every driver and person who holds a state-issued ID card, when they’re up for renewal, we do check their full legal name, their date of birth, and their Social Security number against a Social Security Administration database,” Woodhams said. “In his case it didn’t match with date of birth, and he needs to rectify that either with the Secretary of State’s office or the Social Security Administration.”

Woodhams said state-issued Michigan driver’s licenses are good for periods of four years and that Fouts last renewed his license on or before his birthday in 2007. He said the practice of checking information on file with the Secretary of State against records held by the Social Security Administration began in 2008.

That means Fouts’ scheduled renewal in early August was the first time his information was validated as a part of that process.

“I can make it very simple. I’m obviously embarrassed. It was brought to my attention by a local TV station,” said Fouts, who claimed he was “ambushed” at his home by a television reporter asking about the status of his license. “I said, ‘No, I wasn’t aware of that.’ I’ve been so busy with this campaign.”

Fouts said he would not be driving his Dodge Charger until he’s able to renew the license, and that he would rely on friends — and not city employees — for transportation to and from City Hall in the meantime.

“Whatever it takes, I need my driver’s license,” Fouts said. “I’ll take care of it. I have to drive. I won’t be driving until it’s taken care of.”

Previously, Fouts’ date of birth was at the center of a lawsuit filed by Arthur Garton, an attorney in private practice with Warren City Council member and mayoral challenger Kathy Vogt. Garton took legal action earlier this year after the city initially failed to provide copies of elections-related affidavits of identity filed by Fouts and sought by Garton under a Freedom of Information Act request. The documents were initially provided with personal information — including the mayor’s date of birth — censored, but were later supplied in their unedited form.

The affidavits from the city’s 2003 and 2007 election cycles appeared to indicate in the mayor’s own handwriting that he was born in August 1944, a date that corresponded with records held by Secretary of State. A copy of Fouts’ 2009 speeding ticket issued in Warren, obtained under a FOIA request, also listed his date of birth in August 1944.

However, an official with the Michigan Department of Education previously confirmed that records held by that department linked to Fouts’ teaching certification showed he was born in 1942.

Garton’s lawsuit was ultimately dismissed after the materials were provided, but the matter resurfaced this summer when Vogt and fellow mayoral challengers Joseph Hunt and James McDannel sought to have Fouts and another candidate, Kathleen Schneeberger, removed from the primary election ballot for failing to disclose their dates of birth on the affidavits of identity they filed in May. A circuit court judge declined to order Warren elections officials to remove Fouts and Schneeberger, but initially gave them a week to provide amended affidavits that included their dates of birth.

A panel of Michigan Court of Appeals judges later trumped that decision, ruling that date of birth was not information required by local elections officials to determine the identity of the candidates in question, and that disclosure of the dates was not required under state elections law.

Text on the affidavit of identity forms indicate making a false statement on the signed documents is an act of perjury, punishable by up to five yeas in prison and fines of $1,000.

In July, residents Chris Pasternak and Tomasz Bania presented documents to the Warren Police Department that they said showed an apparent discrepancy with respect to Fouts’ date of birth. Pasternak said materials obtained through the Michigan Department of Community Health verified an existing birth record on file for a James Robert Fouts born in Oakland County in August 1942. He said a search for James Richard Fouts’ birth record in August 1944 found no match.

Woodhams said there was no conflict with “Richard” as Fouts’ middle name in the records recently reviewed. He said Fouts could present a certified copy of his birth certificate to clear up any inconsistency about his date of birth, and added that such inconsistencies occur from time to time.

“If they match, we’ll renew his license as normal,” Woodhams said.

Driving with an expired license is a two-point violation, subject to a total of $300 in fees through the Secretary of State, assessed over two years.

Fouts has blasted his political opponents, including Vogt, for miring the mayoral campaign in personal attacks. He’s labeled questions related to his age as attacks rooted in “ageism.”

 

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brian Louwers at brianlouwers@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1089.