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Pontiac residents in an uproar over racist comments in businessman's email

Posted at 5:46 AM, Sep 15, 2021

PONTIAC, Mich. (WXYZ) — A businessman is under fire in Pontiac after he sent out a racist email comparing people in the community to 'Afghans under Taliban rule’ and made other comments regarding the cleanliness of residents.

This all started because of a disagreement over moving a city bus stop.

During Tuesday's city council meeting many members of the public made one thing clear - they want accountability.

Bob Waun is the man who sent out that email. Between his businesses and real estate properties he has millions invested in Pontiac.

It's why residents found his comments so disturbing. They say he doesn't care about improving the city, he just cares about profit.

Those that were standing at the meeting came out to make it absolutely clear that racism has no place in the city.

Residents are denouncing local businessman Bob Waun after he sent out a racist email to his partners and some people in the mayor’s administration using explicit language to describe residents and, at one point, comparing them to Afghans under Taliban rule.

Waun was recently awarded a lease to the city-owned Phoenix Center parking structure downtown. Nearby is a bus stop that serves as a transportation hub for thousands of residents.

Waun wanted it gone.

“In a diverse community such as this one person's economic development is another person’s gentrification so it’s part of the people that are planning that are thinking about the best of the community needs as well as community growth who make sure they are looking at both sides of that,” says Mayor Deirdre Holloway-Waterman.

Some residents are criticizing the mayor for not taking a more passionate stance like her other council members.

"This person is living here and financially because he’s making money off this city that he wants to degrade —take your ass back to Birmingham,” one councilmember said.

Tamika Ramsey with the Black Women's Roundtable Metro Detroit was one of the first to speak out about the email. She says her solution does not include driving Mr. Waun out of the city.

“He called me that night and said ‘Tamika I am not racist’ I said your behavior and actions are very racists and classist so let’s talk about it and learn from it so I think if we cancel him he’ll go somewhere and do the same thing,” she says.

We did reach out to Waun about his remarks he sent us a statement that reads in part:

I used language that was inappropriate and unbecoming and not at all reflective of my respect and admiration of all Pontiac’s residents and its history, for this I apologize.

Some residents are calling on the city to strip Waun of his investments but the mayor says she can't divest anyone who owns private property and says ultimately that would hurt residents more than it would help.