Phil Stair, the now-former Genesee County Land Bank sales manager who TATM exclusively reported blamed “”n**gers not paying their bills” for the Flint water crisis, also revealed widespread marijuana use at the Land Bank among employees.
In audio recorded by Truth Against The Machine reporter Chelsea Lyons, Stair casually discusses marijuana sales and usage at the Genesee County Land Bank.
“They come in the office…I’m going-man, they supposed to do that?” Stair said to an unidentified man. The man went on to say, “I was in there [the Land Bank]… I’m in there like 3 days, 4 days out of the month to pay for my shit, it always smells like weed.”
In response, Stair goes on to suggest the Land Bank is a place where people casually consume and sell marijuana.
“Oh yeah, they come in, you should see, they all go- they gotta code for the weed,” he said. Lyons responded by asking “where,” to which the unidentified male responded: “at the Land Bank!”
Regardless of one’s position on marijuana, it’s not legal to use recreationally or sell in the state of Michigan, so Stair’s casual reference of marijuana sales and usage at the Land Bank office could potentially cause legal headaches for both he and the Land Bank, whom did not respond to TATM’s request for comment.
Note: Audio clips in this excerpt are cut on the basis of relevance, ease of listening, and to protect anonymous sources’ identity. Full-length clips are available and will be provided on request to inquiring news sources.
His admission on tape of engaging in illegal acts in the workplace is also interesting in light of previous comments he made regarding many parts of Flint being populated with “derelict motherfuckers and deadbeats.”
Questionable Land Bank Deal
Stair also divulged what is perhaps the most far-reaching revelation yet regarding the Land Bank, which he claimed owns 25 percent of Flint.
In this excerpt, Stair reveals an international corporation bullied the Land Bank, a non-profit government organization, into accepting a deal.
MALE 1: This company called- what is it, you said…
MALE 1: C3?
STAIR: But we had, uh, an old Kmart up on Beecher, and they wanted that, and they gave us a low-ball price, and then they said… they said to us, uh… They came in- They said, they said to us, ‘well, if you don’t give us that price, you know, we’re lookin’ other places, so we’re gonna fuck up the Flint deal,’ they whipsaw us. If we don’t kowtow to ‘em and give a low price on this building, they might not do the Flint deal. So now we’d be the ones they blame, they’re lookin’ for [inaudible]… I called the motherfucker, I said… Then I was like, if they didn’t do the Flint deal, what do you mean? They’d blame us. So all of a sudden the Land Bank would be the ones who fucked up the Flint deal.
The company that Stair is referring to, C3, is a China-based auto-manufacturing company that promised to bring hundreds of jobs into Flint. Dozens of press releases flooded the local media, as Flint officials wanted to show off a positive “Flint deal.” As Stair points out, the PR flood painted the Land Bank into a corner—and C3 ultimately used the positive press against them to pressure a deal that shorted the taxpayers.
C3 was propped up publicly by then-Mayor Dayne Walling, as well as Governor Snyder. In fact, the company received millions in (taxpayer) loans through the State of Michigan for promising to employ Flint residents. Snyder personally made a glowing statement about the job prospects. In actuality, C3 ended up hiring only 12 Flint locals—far from the hundreds estimated.
The rest of this excerpt is further revealing:
MALE 1: So it wasn’t you, it was the people on the board of the Land Bank who said-
STAIR: No, no, no, no, I’m the sales- I’m the guy
MALE 1: So you’re the guy who said-
STAIR: My boss. My boss said to me
MALE 1: Who’s your boss?
STAIR: Well he’s retired, and now I got a new boss. But at the time, he just said ‘do it’-
MALE 1: What’s his name?
STAIR: His name was Doug Weiland. But, they- they, like- it wasn’t a real fair negotiation
MALE 1: Why, they like, pushed him down, or what?
MALE 1: They put a gun to his head?
STAIR: No… How would it look if Flint was touting this big deal; they’re gonna buy this place, but they wanted this, they said, if you don’t give us this at a low price outside here, we might not do this deal, then they’ll blame us.
MALE 1: You know what I would’ve said?
STAIR: I would’ve told em to get fucked
MALE 1: Well you know what I would’ve said? What’s the environmental impact?
STAIR: It’s all Kmart, there ain’t nothing wrong with it. Actually, we did environmentals. There used to be a gas station way down the road. Gas stations aren’t that big a deal, cause oil floats. Fuck it’s, it’s, it isn’t an environmental impact. It’s the Kmart up by Saginaw and 475, and Beecher.
Aside from the carefree dismissal of the environmental impact of oil, Stair reveals how a corporation successfully coerced the Genesee County Land Bank to grant them an advantageous deal, which begs further examination of other deals the government bank has made.
This also lends support to residents’ criticism that points to the Land Bank as a not-so-subtle gentrification scheme; an effort to drive poor people out of the area to build high-rises, higher-priced commercial businesses, and golf courses, effectively turning Flint into a rich college town. The majority of residents TATM has talked to on the ground feel this way—and struggle to pay the highest water bills in the country while waiting for the State of Michigan to distribute the federal grant allotted to them.
Interestingly, while there’s been delays in distributing federal relief money to Flint, the state has had no delays in footing the bill for downtown “redevelopment.”
Stair confirms Flint residents’ worst fears about the Genesee County Land Bank: back-room deals are made with political purposes in mind that ultimately benefit corporations instead of low-income residents.
In TATM’s original exclusive report, drawn from audio clips of Stair making discriminatory comments while discussing the Land Bank’s operations with Lyons, Stair describes the government bank—created in 2002 by now Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI 5th) as an entity driving “derelicts and deadbeats” out of Flint.
Within three hours, Kildee released a statement on Twitter condemning the comments made by Stair and calling for his resignation.
This behavior is awful and indefensible. Phil Stair should be fired or resign immediately. https://t.co/A7R6QjzlEP
— Rep. Dan Kildee (@RepDanKildee) June 5, 2017
Within 13 hours, the Genesee County Commissioners made a statement during a board meeting that Stair had officially resigned. From conversations with TATM’s Lyons, we obtained over six hours of raw audio featuring Stair. One of the more alarming things he said regarding public health was the dangerous condition of Flint water TODAY—something that state and local officials have tried to downplay.
Stagnant Water: “A Quality Thing”
“And there’s another problem with the Flint pipes,” Stair said.
“They had five major General Motors plants that each used almost as much as the residential used, and there’s only one [plant] left. And it’s not on the Flint water system anymore, because the water was fucked up. So, the pipes are built to deliver water to 200,000 people plus 5 General Motors plants; now there’s less than 100,000 people and one plant, so now the water pipes are over-sized for the users; slow-moving water goes bad, so there’s other issues, so that means they gotta put more chlorine in and other shit… it’s a quality thing.”
Water quality is still a major issue for Flint residents. It’s widely reported that 12 deaths in Flint from Legionnaire’s Disease were directly connected to the water crisis. The Flint public—which consists of many residents who’ve had bacteria found in their home water through independent testing—have been demanding proper testing for bacteria since the beginning of the water crisis. I
In response, state, city, and EPA officials have largely ignored the bacteria concerns—the same forces that ignored mass residential complaints of contaminated water from April, 2014 to October, 2015.
Instead, EPA and MDEQ ‘s response has been, in large part, a plethora of pamphlets, mailed out to residents claiming that it is safe for residents to drink water through a filter and also bathe and shower in the water.
Despite corporate media choosing to ignore Flint for the last two years, independent media reporting has shown the water is not as safe as these agencies claim—they mostly test home sink water on cold and don’t test shower water, home water heaters, or water at the meter as it enters the home.
Which is why it’s so concerning that the RTAB, a quasi-shadow government oversight committee appointed by Governor Snyder to rule over Mayor Karen Weaver and the City Council, would institute a policy of issuing property tax liens against homes whose inhabitants haven’t paid their still-undrinkable water bill. The Flint City Council, pressured by negative national press, voted recently to place a moratorium on the liens. However, on June 14th, the RTAB gets the final say- over the heads, consent, and oversight of the leaders elected by Flint citizens.
Stair introduces himself as an integral employee at the Land Bank to Lyons and two other Flint residents who wish to remain anonymous. During their conversation, he discusses how much business he is doing a year.
MALE 1: This guy’s like a big shot at the land bank.
STAIR: It’s the land bank. Tax foreclosed stuff. Did you ever read about Detroit and the land bank and all that stuff? Well, Flint was the first land bank. (Editor’s note: Incorrect- first land bank was created in St. Louis in 1971). Half the people left Flint. And when they walked away, the properties foreclose for taxes, cause nobody paid the taxes. I sell those properties…Yeah, I sell 4 million dollars worth [a year]… we own 25% of the city of Flint. Half the people left! [Inaudible]
LYONS: You own 25% of Flint?
STAIR: Well, who I work for does.
We can’t confirm Stair’s comments regarding 25 percent ownership: many residents TATM has spoken to argue the percentage is much higher.
But, Stair’s derogatory view on Flint continued in other parts of the audio, putting into question what his colleagues’ at the Land Bank’s views of the city they claim to “restore value” for are.
STAIR: Move to Flint, the garden spot of the state….I always said, if you’re going to give Michigan an enema, you stick it in Flint.
MALE 1: Asshole of the world?
It’s difficult to ascertain how the Genesee County Land Bank can keep their mission of “restoring value to the community” while its sales manager “always said” and thought of Flint as an “asshole,” filled with “derelicts” and “deadbeats.”
In fact, Stair made this “enema” comment twice: Chelsea Lyons met with Stair two separate nights, and he reaffirmed this remark at their second meeting.
Stair also marginalizes the poorest areas of Flint by throwing around jokes about arson.
STAIR: If you own a house, and you live in a house you own, and we tear a house down next door-
MALE 1: Come on, Phil- it burns down, it burns down.
STAIR: Well, not always burns… that’s only if you’re on the East Side.
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI 5th) gave no response to an inquiry asking if he supports a full audit of the Genesee County Land Bank, which he began when he was County Treasurer, and has since heralded as a great success.
In Stair’s resignation letter, he references he regrets his “private opinion”- but as Shaun King points out in his coverage of Stair’s comments, it’s hard to believe that this is the first time Stair spoke his beliefs aloud.
It’s hard to believe that his co-workers never heard his true opinions.
It’s hard to believe that someone who has worked at the Land Bank since the beginning who has held these sentiments hasn’t made work-related decisions based on them.
And, since he only just resigned after the release of TATM’s article, it’s hard to believe that his opinions were greeted at the Land Bank office with the same outrage that Flint residents have expressed since the article’s release.
In the coming days, TATM will release part 3 of our series revolving around Stair’s comments.
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