Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson earned a spot on this month’s list, after hosting author James Simpson as the keynote speaker of the 24th Oakland County Business Roundtable Annual Meeting. Simpson, a former economist and budget analyst for the White House Office of Management and Budget, is best known for his strong anti-refugee stance – considered racist by some – including his 2015 book, “The Red-Green Axis: Refugees, Immigration and the Agenda to Erase America.” Critics said Simpson’s appearance at the breakfast, which has traditionally been a non-political event, gives credence to Patterson’s image as being intolerant of Middle Eastern refugees. Simpson’s booking led Fifth Third Bank, a key sponsor of the breakfast in recent years, to withdraw their sponsorship for this year’s event, held on Thursday, December 1. An online petition at change.org drew nearly 500 signatures protesting the event.
Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner, who spoke highly of previous business roundtable events, said he boycotted this year’s event because of the speaker. “Previous roundtable speakers have included governors, heads of companies, and people with insight to share about economic development, job creation and helping entrepreneurs. That seems like a pretty good focus to me,” he said. “This other meeting was a needless distraction at the very least, and at worst, a purposeful attempt to stoke the flames of bigotry and hate.”