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.
“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.
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).
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.