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Michigan Civil Rights Commission fires civil rights department director Agustin Arbulu

Agustin Arbulu
Michigan Civil Rights Commission

The director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, Agustin Arbulu, has been fired.

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission voted to fire Arbulu during a meeting Tuesday night.

Arbulu has been under scrutiny since early August, when the commission announced that it had formally reprimanded him. An employee of the Department of Civil Rights, Todd Heywood, had reported that Arbulu made sexually charged comments about a woman outside a work event.

After Heywood made the report, the commission asked the attorney general’s office for its opinion on whether the comments created a hostile work environment.

In a memoreleased by the commission earlier on Tuesday, the AG’s office said the allegations “do not amount to severe or pervasive sexually harassing conduct.” But the memo said that didn’t mean the allegations did not violate the department's standards:

"It should be noted that while it is our opinion that Mr. Heywood's claims may not be actionable under the applicable civil rights statutes, we have not offered an opinion with regard to whether or not the conduct alleged may violate the standards of conduct that MDCR sets for its Director. That is a question that must be answered by the Commission."

Earlier this month, Governor Gretchen Whitmer called on Arbulu to resign or for the commission to fire him.

Commission chair Alma Wheeler Smith said in a statement on Tuesday that it’s now time for the department to “turn forward to the important work it was created to do.”

The vote was 5 to 2 in favor of Arbulu’s removal.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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