Flint Official Who Called Black Residents ‘Niggers Who Don’t Pay Their Bills’ Resigns

Protesters called for the resignation of Philip Stair, a sales manager at the Genesee County Land Bank, in Flint, Mich., on Monday. Mr. Stair resigned the same day. (Credit: Jake May/The Flint Journal-MLive.com, via Associated Press)
Protesters called for the resignation of Philip Stair, a sales manager at the Genesee County Land Bank, in Flint, Mich., on Monday. Mr. Stair resigned the same day. (Credit: Jake May/The Flint Journal-MLive.com, via Associated Press)

An official in Flint, Mich., who was recorded using a racial slur and insulting residents of the city during a private conversation, resigned on Monday.

Philip Stair, 63, was a sales manager at the Genesee County Land Bank, a government organization that develops abandoned properties in Flint, a majority-black city that suffered through a contaminated water crisis beginning in 2014.

In May, Mr. Stair, who is white, used a racial epithet to describe black people who “don’t pay their bills,” as part of an attempt to explain what he thought led to the city’s water crisis. He was speaking to Chelsea Lyons, a journalist and activist who was secretly recording him.

In audio clips first published on Sunday by the online media outlet Truth Against the Machine, Mr. Stair can be heard backtracking slightly, saying that he did not want to use the slur and had recently gone to the beach with a group of men who were not white.

“I was the only white guy,” he said. “I got friends.”

Elsewhere in the recording, Mr. Stair referred to some Flint residents as “derelict” and “deadbeats.” He could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Truth Against the Machine is an independent media organization that covers “stories the corporate media is ignoring on a local, national and international scale,” according to its website. It did not respond to an email requesting comment from Ms. Lyons, but she told MLive, an online news outlet based in Michigan, that the Genesee County Land Bank was “a disaster,” in part because of the tax foreclosures that made so much land available to the bank in the first place.

Michele Wildman, the Land Bank’s executive director, said she heard the recording on Sunday evening and resolved to fire Mr. Stair. When she arrived at work on Monday morning, protesters were outside the office doors, and Mr. Stair’s resignation was already on her desk.

“I am deeply sorry for what I said and those I offended,” his letter said. “I do not know how I can face my friends and co-workers.”

Ms. Wildman said she had “no indication” until this week that Mr. Stair would make racist remarks.

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