Racism accusations raised against West Bloomfield official

Accusations of racism in West Bloomfield Township.

Some are accusing leadership in West Bloomfield Township of trying to get rid of a new employee - because of his skin color.

There was big turnout at tonight's township meeting and FOX was there.

"There have been allegations that a member of this body said Chaldeans cannot be trusted, Chaldeans are not people we should hire within this township, that Chaldeans are a bunch of crooks," said resident Martin Manna.

It is hard for many to fathom those words would be said in West Bloomfield in 2015. But there were plenty at Monday's meeting who would say, think again.

The controversy stems over the hiring of the township supervisor's executive assistant Zia Oram, a Chaldean-American.

Among the concerns, the fact he didn't have a bachelor's degree, but Township Supervisor  Michele Economou Ureste believes there something else at play.

"One of our elected officials basically warned me not to put any nominations forward for Chaldeans on boards and commissions," she said. "That they would not be confirmed or ratified."

Dozens of Chaldeans packed the township board meeting Monday, outraged over the allegations.

Among them, Zia Oram's father

"When i heard it i thought i was living in 1960s," said John Oram, an employee's father. "I did not understand it."

"The clerk, told the supervisor you probably need to ask them questions that 'I told you we don't want Chaldeans here, they're either corrupt or crooked."

West Bloomfield Clerk Catherine Shaughnessy denied the allegations but refused an on-camera interview.

The township supervisor says it's more than just racist remarks but racist practices. A pattern of discrimination against minority workers and applicants.

"Those three individuals could not confirm seven of my planning commission appointments that were minorities, African-American, that terminated my black female budget director."

She's referring to board members Shaughnessy, Lawrence Brown and Howard Rosenberg.

West Bloomfield is ethnically diverse, but many claim the workforce in its local  government is anything but.

"Not one single of the 92 employees here is minority in the city hall," Oram said. 

"This is an incredibly diverse, more than 50 percent minority, community," said attorney Ryan Fishman. "And these folks, when you see a panel of eight members on the township board (and) not one is anything but white, I think it raises a justifiable concern that these folks are not represented."

Brown spoke to FOX 2 after the meeting and denied the allegation.

"I'm not that kind of person," Brown said. "If they are qualified to be in position then they should be put in a position.

"We will dig out what was said, if it was said, and they have to own up to it." 

FOX 2: "What should happen to that person?"

"If that type of situation occurred, maybe they should lose their position, if it was an elected position," Brown said. "If it was not an elected position, they should still possibly lose their position."

The board voted to formal diversity commission to investigate the remarks and  bump up minority hiring. 

As for Zaile Orom, he will keep his position, but he and his attorney say they are not opposed to legal action if he encounters more discrimination.
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