Following Tuesday evening’s Ann Arbor City Council meeting, the city released an outside investigation report Wednesday afternoon alleging City Administrator Tom Crawford made discriminatory comments since he took up the position last year.
The report alleges that Crawford cautioned against hiring minorities, questioned the proposal to make Juneteenth a city holiday, made multiple racially insensitive comments, and alluded to gender-based stereotyping.
During the hiring process for a new city employee, Crawford allegedly told a member of city leadership that “you have to be careful hiring minorities — because you can’t fire them or let them go,” according to the report. Crawford said he did not recall making the statement and did not believe he made the comment, the report adds.
Tuesday’s City Council meeting included resolutions to publicize this report and initiate Crawford’s termination of employment. The vote to fire Crawford passed 8-3, with councilmembers Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5, Elizabeth Nelson, D-Ward 4, and Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, opposing.
Crawford was hired as city administrator last September after a 7-4 vote from Council to fire former City Administrator Howard Lazarus without cause in February 2020. Crawford was appointed interim administrator before being unanimously approved for the position. He had previously served as the city’s chief financial officer since 2004.
The report details a discussion in April 2021 between Crawford and city staff regarding the proposal to make Juneteenth a city holiday, to which Crawford said “Black people already have a holiday” (referring to MLK day). The report says Crawford denies this specific comment, though he acknowledged that he did mention a concern for recognizing a holiday for one minority group and not others.
The report also describes a discussion on racial issues involving policing, in which Crawford made a statement to the effect of “When only 10% of the people in Ann Arbor are Black, I don’t see why we have to worry about it.” When asked about this statement, Crawford denies saying it and that the comment goes against his views.
“When confronted with the specific comment that (Crawford) was alleged to have made, he said he was offended by the comment and that he would not have said it as it is not consistent with his views,” the report reads. “(Crawford) noted that the percentage of the City’s population that is African American does not define the struggles that African Americans have been through.”
Additionally, the report mentions alleged insensitive comments from Crawford regarding sexual orientation and gender stereotypes. According to the report, after Crawford was informed of a fellow coworker’s sexual orientation, he said “She got a butch haircut. I didn’t know she was gay.” Regarding this comment, Crawford reportedly said he did not “recall” using this exact word choice.
Concerning a separate instance, the report states Crawford said he believed people who identified as bisexual were “just doing it for attention.” Though Crawford said he did remember this conversation, he apparently said his comment was specific to the context of the situation and the individual in question.
The report also notes multiple comments made by Crawford relating to the role of women in their household. Specifically, the report cites Crawford alleging women benefited more from childcare credit and sick leave since women stereotypically take on the role of caring for the children in a household. In response to the pandemic, Crawford reportedly said “Be nice to the moms, because they are the ones taking care of the kids while working from home.” Crawford denied making these remarks and instead refuted that he supported the child care credit.
The report was conducted by outside investigator Jennifer Salvatore, a lawyer at Salvatore Prescott & Porter who said at the end of the report that Crawford’s denial of several comments were less credible, especially since multiple individuals alleged that the comments were made. Salvatore also acknowledged that Crawford expressed “genuine remorse and distress over the fact that anything he said or did has offended anyone,” though the totality of his comments still violate city policies.
In addition to the investigative report, the city also released Crawford’s response to his comments. Prior to reviewing the report, Crawford wrote that he feels remorseful for causing harm to others with his comments and that they don’t align with his dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion.
“The comments do not reflect how I feel or communicate on a daily and regular basis, nor do they reflect the value I place on each human being,” Crawford wrote. “There really is no context where these comments are acceptable, and I am genuinely and deeply remorseful for the pain and exclusion they caused.”
In the follow-up to the investigative report, Crawford also outlined additional steps to prioritize accountability, awareness and personal growth such as engaging further in DEI trainings and initiating outreach to traditionally underrepresented communities and demographics. Crawford also responded to the allegations that he could not recall certain remarks, writing “I do have an occasional tendency for making careless and insensitive remarks when I’m fatigued — and this past year was unprecedented and exhausting.”
After reviewing the report, Crawford acknowledged his remarks were insensitive and outlined steps he would take moving forward including the self-initiation of a five-day suspension effective immediately.
“I take full responsibility for all of these comments and the harm they have caused,” Crawford wrote in the response. “Whether I remember all of them or not is irrelevant, because individuals heard and felt harmed or excluded from the conversations we had.”
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