Macomb commissioner linked to minority hiring letter

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News
Macomb County Commissioner Fred Miller

Utica — A statewide advocacy group is denouncing a coalition of minority leaders who called on Macomb County to hire more African-Americans, calling the initiative politically motivated.

Members of the Michigan Advocacy Coalition said Thursday the Black Opportunity Matters Coalition is being influenced by Commissioner Fred Miller who is trying to gain the group’s support in his campaign for Macomb County Clerk.

Miller, who said he has worked with the Black Opportunity Matters Coalition and reviewed its recent letter about providing jobs for minorities before it was sent to the county, denied his intentions were political.

“It’s an issue that I care deeply about,” he said after a Board of Commissioners meeting where the topic was brought up during public comments. “It’s clear that there is an opportunity gap among African-Americans.”

The Black Opportunity Matters Coalition submitted a letter addressed to County Executive Mark Hackel earlier this week saying there was a “lack of employment and upward mobility opportunities for African-Americans” in county government.

The letter also cited a 2012 New Macomb County Report and said African-Americans make up 5.8 percent of the Macomb County government’s workforce and of that number, less than 1 percent, or 20 out of 2,164, earn more than $55,000.

Macomb County officials have not verified the data or denied its accuracy.

Hackel and Deputy Executive Mark Deldin could not be reached for comment after the Board meeting.

Greg Murray, executive director of the Michigan Advocacy Coalition, said the Black Opportunity Matters Coalition is duplicating efforts because he has been working with Macomb County on diversity issues for years.

Murray accused Miller of “plantation politics,” or pretending to support the African-American community for the sole purpose of getting their votes. He also said Miller has done little to serve the black population in Macomb County.

“I would think that both black and white Macomb County residents would be outraged with someone who tried to agitate, instigate, excite and incite blacks for political gain,” Murray said.

Miller said Murray was making “baseless assertions that distract from the work that needs to be done on this issue.”

The Rev. Alex Minor, who leads the Black Opportunity Matters Coalition, said the initiative is not political because he approached Miller last year to ask for his support.

Minor said his group has been meeting for a year to collect data on the hiring practices for Macomb County. He said he supports Murray’s efforts to diversify the county workforce and considers himself another voice.

“This has nothing to do with a political party whatsoever,” Minor said. “This is about a hiring practice that’s not fair to African-Americans in Macomb County.”

Minor said he has not received a response from Hackel’s office since sending the letter. Efforts to meet with county leaders to discuss their hiring policies have been unsuccessful, he said.