By: - August 15, 2019 10:22 am

Wendell Anthony (left) and Agustin Arbulu (right)

The Rev. Wendell Anthony, Detroit NAACP chapter president, has written a letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that it’s time for Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) Director Agustin Arbulu to step down.

Arbulu allegedly made comments like “check out that ass” and remarked on his coworker’s sexual orientation, both of which led the Michigan Civil Rights Commission (MCRC) to reprimand him earlier this month. Arbulu is undergoing training. However, in a letter dated Aug. 8 to the governor, Anthony said that wasn’t the correct course of action.

Panel reprimands Michigan civil rights director for ‘inappropriate’ comments

“I submit that now is not the time for a training program or a mentorship program for one charged with such a major responsibility,” Anthony wrote. “In fact, it is quite the opposite. The training and the mentorship should in fact come from the leader of the very program that he is charged with directing. It is therefore incumbent upon your fine office to correct this situation which would open the pathway of this essential department towards a new direction.”

Anthony continued, “I believe at this point in your administration and the vision you have set forth for One Michigan, a new direction is called for. This department is essential to fulfill the mission that you have espoused for the past two years.”

On Wednesday, Whitmer sent a letter to the MCDR urging Arbulu to resign, although she does not have the power to remove him. That’s up to the MCRC. However, the governor has barred him from cabinet meetings.

Whitmer boots civil rights chief from cabinet meetings, urges him to resign

By Monday, more than 20 Democratic lawmakers called for Arbulu to step down. More have joined that list, including state Reps. Kara Hope (D-Holt) and Brian Elder (D-Bay City).

Rep. Isaac Robinson
Isaac Robinson

However, Rep. Isaac Robinson (D-Detroit), who has been a vocal critic of Whitmer on auto insurance reform and issues involving Benton Harbor Schools, is one Democrat who has argued Arbulu is being treated unfairly over his sexist remarks.

“As an advocate for civil rights, I believe we must be careful not to politically assassinate people,” Robinson said in a press release. “Here there is a serious attempt to destroy a person’s reputation with a long track record of courageous public service.”

Advance reporter Ken Coleman contributed to this story.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 22-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ+ people, the state budget, the economy and more. She previously served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 90 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 5,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 80 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two kids along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.