FLINT, MI — A woman who secretly recorded a former executive at the Genesee County Land Bank making a racial slur about Flint residents says she plans to release additional recordings from the conversation in coming days.
“There are more audio files coming … We’re not going to let this die,” said Chelsea Lyons, an environmental activist and independent journalist who recorded Philip Stair, former sales manager of the Land Bank, after meeting him at a local bar.
Stair, who’s white, was recorded saying “Flint has the same problems as Detroit — f**ing ni***** don’t pay their bills, believe me, I deal with them.”
The recordings were first reported online by Truth Against The Machine. In the audio, Stair also calls tenants in Flint houses “derelict mother fu*****” and “fu***** deadbeats.”
“They fu** the houses up and then leave, and we tear them down,” Stair said of how he saw the cycle of property foreclosures in Flint.
Stair has resigned from his position at the Land Bank and Executive Director Michele M. Wildman apologized on behalf of the agency Monday, June 5.
Wildman told the Genesee County Board of Commissioners that Stair’s comments don’t reflect attitudes inside the Land Bank and said she expected to immediately speak to employees about the situation Monday.
The executive director said the agency may hire a consultant and add training for staff to ensure the office is treating residents with respect. She also said she never suspected Stair harbored the feelings she heard him speak on the audio recording.
“If I had ever been aware he would have used a racial slur, I would have dealt with it immediately,” she said.
Wildman said she had yet to speak to Stair about the incident and said his resignation was on her desk when she arrived at work Monday.
Lyons said the Stair case is important not only because of the racial slur he used but because of how many people have been pushed out of Flint because tax foreclosures that put so much property into the Land Bank’s possession, which owns about 13,000 properties in the county, almost 12,000 of which are in Flint.
Wildman said she’s willing to discuss the tax foreclosure process and how the Land Bank carries out its work demolishing structures and putting properties into productive use with Lyons or others who have concerns.
Lyons called the Land Bank “a disaster, which is why I wanted to talk to (Stair) in the first place.
“I had not idea he was going to say the things that he said. That was not exactly what I going for,” she said.
Lyons declined to say what was said on the unreleased audio recording that she said were made over the course of two days last month.