Consumer bureau union chief says official should be fired over racism blog posts

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The union for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) employees has called on the agency’s acting chief to ax a senior official who wrote blog posts in 2004 dismissing racism, calling him “unfit for any leadership position in the federal government.”

The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), which also represents CFPB employees, asked Acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney to remove Eric Blankenstein from his senior position overseeing racial discrimination and fair lending cases in a Monday letter.

{mosads}The letter was shared with reporters on Tuesday.

“There should be zero tolerance for comments that Blankenstein has admitted authoring and nothing else than swift and decisive action is called for,” NTEU President Anthony Reardon writes in the letter.

“The frontlines employees of the Bureau have always displayed dedication to America’s consumers and they deserve to have leadership that reflects and supports their work.”

Gail Wisely, president of NTEU’s CFPB chapter, called for Blankstein’s firing in a Monday email to colleagues. She said that minority employees under him “are now workin in a hostile environment which is something the union cannot tolerate.”

“No one who holds his views should be in the position of enforcing fair lending practices,” Wisely wrote. “It is an affront to all CFPB employees, and especially those in fair lending, as well as to the public we serve.”

Blankenstein, director of the CFPB’s office of supervision, enforcement and fair lending, has admitted to writing anonymous blog posts in 2004 calling most hate crimes hoaxes and questioning whether using the “n-word” was always racist.

The anonymous screeds were reported by the Washington Post last week and set off a rebellion among Obama-era CFPB veterans against officials appointed by Mulvaney.

Patrice Ficklin, director of the CFPB’s fair lending office, spoke out Monday against a reorganization that would give Blankenstein sole control over racial discrimination cases and asked him to be removed from such cases.

And Chris D’Angelo, the associate director of the fair lending division, said Monday that Blankenstein’s defense of his actions “undermines constructive discourse and is inconsistent with the consumer protection and fair lending mandates of the Bureau,” according to the Post.

Blakenstein said in a Monday email to bureau employees first reported by The Hill that he regrets the language he used in 2004, but insisted that “poor judgement in my choice of words back then, or how I framed my arguments, does not make me a racist or a sexist.”

Reardon, the NTEU president, rejected that claim in his Monday letter and argued that Blakenstein’s comments “run counter to the nation’s civil service principles and particularly offensive for someone charged with leading the fair lending program.”

Reardon also called on Mulvaney to halt the planned reorganization.

“That organization must be paused, and we believe a full review is needed to assess its impact on the office’s mission, especially since the reorganization puts scrutiny over discriminatory practices more directly under Blankenstein’s oversight,” Reardon wrote.

Blankenstein joined the CFPB in December and was elevated by Mulvaney to a senior position in February. He’s a key figure in the acting director’s efforts to tame the bureau’s historically aggressive financial sector oversight and weaken the influence of Obama-era CFPB veterans.

“That someone with a history of a racially derogatory and offensive comments has a leadership position at CFPB reflects poorly on CFPB management and your commitment to fulfilling the mandate of the agency,” Reardon wrote.

Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio), who’ve fiercely opposed Mulvaney’s deregulatory agenda, have called for Blankenstein to be fired.

Progressive nonprofits and fair lending groups that had been close allies of former CFPB Director Richard Cordray (D) have also called for his ouster.

Updated at 1:15 p.m.

Tags CFPB Elizabeth Warren Mick Mulvaney Richard Cordray Sherrod Brown Union
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