WRAL Investigates

Raleigh woman 'disturbed' by city employee's racial slur

Posted August 3, 2009 6:01 p.m. EDT
Updated August 4, 2009 7:41 a.m. EDT

— A Raleigh woman says she was disturbed to hear a racial slur in a voicemail message from a city inspector.

Although Calla Wright was told the slur was not directed at her, she is demanding the city take action against the employee, Anthony Sinclair.

The incident happened July 16 when Sinclair called Wright to update her on a complaint she had made about a neighbor's yard.

In the message, the caller identifies himself as Sinclair, and after a 3-second pause, in a soft voice, says an obscene word and racial slur before ending the call.

"Initially, it was devastating," Wright said. "I thought, 'This is not for me.' I thought they had the wrong number."

In a second message, time-stamped three minutes later, the caller apologizes and says the statement was that of a man who had walked up to his truck.

"Again, I apologize for the outburst from the gentleman, that was, walked up to my truck. Um, I'm not sure if it picked up that he said something extremely inappropriate," the caller says.

The rest of the message addresses Wright’s original complaint.

Wright then reported the message to Sinclair's supervisor, as well as to Raleigh City Manager Russell Allen.

Sinclair's supervisor apologized to Wright and said that Sinclair admitted to making the remark, which was directed at a passer-by.

Allen would not comment directly on the matter but said the city takes such cases very seriously. He said it is being investigated and that, if it’s true, Sinclair, who has worked in the position since 2006, will be disciplined.

Wright said Sinclair's supervisor told her the discipline could be a letter of reprimand and counseling. Allen said it could be a wide range of disciplines.

Wright, an advocate for black children in the Wake County Public School System, said that is not enough.

"I don't think the city should have employees who make those condescending racial statements."

Neither Sinclair nor his supervisor returned calls from WRAL News.