In this photo provided by attorney Jack Dolan, Fouts looks over the document in front of Michigan Department of State Bureau of Elections employee and notary David Foster, in the blue shirt.

In this photo provided by attorney Jack Dolan, Fouts looks over the document in front of Michigan Department of State Bureau of Elections employee and notary David Foster, in the blue shirt.

Photo provided by Jack Dolan

Fouts refutes campaign complaint by Hazel Park city manager

Former Warren mayor’s affidavit of identity for state House race is invalid, Klobucher claims

By: Andy Kozlowski, Gena Johnson | C&G Newspapers | Published May 17, 2024


WARREN/HAZEL PARK — James Fouts, the former mayor of Warren now running for a seat in the Michigan House of Representatives, has responded to a complaint made to the Michigan Bureau of Elections. The complaint was filed by Edward Klobucher, the city manager of Hazel Park. Klobucher claims that Fouts’ affidavit of identity is invalid and should disqualify him from the race.

Fouts is challenging Democratic state Rep. Mike McFall, who currently serves in District 8, representing the cities of Madison Heights, Hazel Park, Highland Park, part of Ferndale and part of Detroit. Both are running in the Democratic primary for the new District 14, which will cover the cities of Madison Heights, Hazel Park, Center Line and part of Warren.

“This was clearly a frivolous complaint. And it’s going nowhere, and I will be on the ballot,” Fouts said. “Why is everybody afraid to let me stay on the ballot? First it was the council, then it was the court, and now it’s Mr. McFall.”

Fouts is referring to the Warren City Council, which filed a lawsuit when Fouts wanted to run for an unprecedented fifth term. Warren’s city charter states the position of mayor is limited to the greater of three terms, or 12 years.

Although Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Toia ruled Fouts could run for another term because the language on the ballot was not clear, and the information about term limits did not appear in the location where voters mark the ballot, the ruling was overturned by the Michigan Court of Appeals, and limited Fouts from running again as mayor.

As for the complaint by Klobucher, the issue is Fouts’ signature on the affidavit of identity. Is the date on the document April 16, or April 19? A date of April 19 would mean Fouts signed in front of a notary. A date of April 16 would mean Fouts did not sign the affidavit in front of the notary, and it was notarized later. In order to appear on the ballot, the document must be signed by all candidates, and notarized in the presence of a notary before the filing deadline.

“Let’s just have a fair election, and not hide behind shills to do your dirty work for you,” Fouts said, suggesting that McFall and Klobucher are conspiring against him. “It’s clear that he (Klobucher) worked with Mr. McFall. The council hires and fires the city manager. So he is close with Mr. McFall.”

Fouts said that if he’s found ineligible, it will be an automatic win for McFall.

“If I’m taken off the ballot, the voters don’t have a choice. He’s (McFall) unopposed,” Fouts said. “This is a heavily democratic district.”

Klobucher was quick to dismiss the notion that his complaint is politically motivated in favor of his former boss. Prior to his election to the state House in 2022, McFall served as mayor pro tem on the Hazel Park City Council while Klobucher was the city manager.

“(Fouts) can try to characterize it any way he wishes. But again, the question that needs to be answered here is whether the affidavit was materially defective or not, plain and pure and simple,” Klobucher said. “He’s accused me of being malicious, but there is no malicious intent here. We have candidates that Oakland County has removed in the past because they filed defective affidavits of identity. No one is above the law, so it’s up to (Fouts) to make his case now.”

McFall said he doesn’t want to get involved in drama.

“I’m just focused on serving the people of my district,” McFall said.

He added, “And I’m hoping I will be afforded the opportunity to continue serving the people and bringing resources back to our district.”   

In a statement, Fouts’ attorney Jack Dolan said Klobucher’s complaint is baseless.

“The assertion that Mr. Fouts signed his affidavit (April 16) outside the presence of the notary, who then later notarized on the 19th, is completely without merit,” Dolan stated. “This also appears to be malicious, as no attempt to contact the notary by the accuser has occurred. The accuser is misidentifying a ‘9’ as a ‘6’ on the form.”

Dolan noted that the ‘9’ on the form is a partial circle with a short stem on the right side.

He also had verification of Fouts’ digital appointment card, which stated “Friday, April 19, 2024, 11:30 a.m. (with the) Bureau of Elections.”

In addition, Dolan contacted the State Board of Canvassers with an email from the notary, David Foster, in which Foster states that Fouts’ signature was notarized April 19. The email also includes a picture of the notary with Fouts, where Fouts is reading the document.

In an email from Foster to Dolan, Foster stated, “I served as the notary, and the candidate James Fouts signed the affidavit of identity in front of me. This all occurred on April 19, 2024. In the photo that was taken of this process on April 19, I am the individual in the blue shirt for identification purposes.”

Fouts is also concerned that the state didn’t notify him about the complaint in a timely manner. The complaint with Klobucher’s signature was dated April 30. According to Fouts, the envelope with the complaint inside was postmarked May 7, and he received it in the mail May 9. In the letter, he was instructed to respond by May 8.

 “I think there needs to be better procedures regarding notification and your right to know,” Fouts said. “That’s pretty late.” 

In an email to Dolan from the Bureau of Elections, regulatory manager Adam Fracassi stated, “I am not sure what happened with the mail, but we put it in the mail on May 2.”

Dolan added, “The state said (Fouts’) response to the complaint would be accepted.”

Klobucher, for his part, said that it’s only fair to point out what he feels is a clear discrepancy in the affidavit that was filed.

“Look, this just is what it is. You look at the affidavit, and it clearly looks like the dates don’t match between his signature and the notary’s signature. Also, he clearly failed to properly identify the county in which he ran before. Obviously, Warren is not a county,” Klobucher said. “Other people have been removed from the ballot for filing affidavits that were inaccurate or improper. And his status (as the well-known former mayor of Warren) is irrelevant.

“The question that the state will take into consideration is whether the affidavit was filed properly or not properly,” he continued. “And certainly, given the fact that it appears from looking at it that the dates don’t match up, well, that is a matter that will have to be determined by the state.”

Reached for comment on this story, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of State declined to comment on the matter pending the completion of the review process and a final determination by the Bureau of Elections.