WRAL Investigates

Raleigh woman plays racial slur before City Council

Posted September 1, 2009 10:19 p.m. EDT
Updated September 2, 2009 12:02 a.m. EDT

— The Raleigh City Council heard Tuesday evening from a woman who said she received a voice mail containing a racial slur from a Raleigh housing inspector.

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

Wright, who was told the slur was not directed at her, said she wanted members of the council to hear the message firsthand.

"I would like to warn you, it is profane and it is obscene,” Wright said before the voice message was played.

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.

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.

"We feel that no one should be subjected to this type of inflammatory, offensive, racial slur,” Calla Wright said Tuesday after the message was played.

"It bothers me every time I have to hear this, but this is something that we felt we had to bring before the council,” said Gerald Wright, Calla's husband.

Wright first 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.

"We have taken appropriate disciplinary action, and we also sent a letter of apology,” Allen said Tuesday.

Allen said Sinclair still works for the city. He is classified as housing inspector but no longer works in the field. However, Allen said disciplinary actions are not yet complete.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said Tuesday that he condemns what the city employee did.

"No one in our community, particularly Raleigh employees, should be talking like that,” Meeker said.

City councilman James West said if Sinclair intentionally said what he said, termination should be considered.

"If it were willful, I think it should be extreme, very severe discipline,” West said.

At the council meeting, Wright called on the city to increase diversity training among employees.  Allen said city workers were already required to take part in such training.

Sinclair did not returned calls from WRAL News for comment.