Warren City Council approves settlement with former diversity head

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published January 26, 2022


WARREN — A lawsuit filed against the city of Warren and Mayor Jim Fouts by his administration’s former diversity coordinator has been settled and signed off on by all parties. 

By a 5-2 vote, the settlement of the lawsuit filed by Gregory Murray was approved by the Warren City Council Jan. 1. Councilman Eddie Kabacinski and Councilman Garry Watts voted no. 

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on Oct. 14, 2019. It alleged racial discrimination, various rights violations and breach of contract claims stemming from Murray’s 11 months with the city from January to December 2017, when he was reportedly tasked with examining Warren’s past policies and practices, developing and implementing diversity training and investigating allegations of illegal or inappropriate conduct. 

In the lawsuit, Murray alleged his efforts to do those things were “thwarted.” He claimed he was “constantly subjected” to Warren’s “custom, policy and practice of racial discrimination and disparate treatment due to lack of training and other conduct” by Fouts and city employees. 

In December, Judge Gershwin Drain granted a resolution from defense attorneys seeking to keep the potential jury in the case from hearing alleged audio recordings of Fouts “making racist, sexist, and ageist comments and other derogatory remarks.” The clips in question were leaked to the press, but their origin has never been ascertained, and Fouts has long insisted that they were “manipulated and manufactured” by political rivals. 

After Drain’s ruling, Murray’s attorney, Jonathan Marko, filed a motion for consideration and a leave to file the audio recordings as exhibits under seal on Dec. 9, according to court records. The motion for reconsideration was withdrawn on Dec. 22, citing an “agreement to settle between the parties.”

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. 

Marko said he could not comment on the settlement. 

Attorney Raechel Badalamenti, of the Kirk, Huth, Lange & Badalamenti, PLC law firm representing the city and Fouts, also indicated she could not comment beyond indicating that the case was resolved.

Badalamenti previously applauded Drain’s ruling about the “inflammatory audio clips” and said the judge’s decision illustrated that the recordings “are not authentic statements attributable to Mayor Fouts.”

“I think the mayor puts us in this situation and we shouldn’t be paying for his mistakes,” Watts said regarding his vote against the settlement. “He’s had a lot of lawsuits because of his loose words.”