DEARBORN, Mich. (WXYZ) — A City of Dearborn employee is coming under fire for a controversial comment made on 7 Action News' Facebook page.
The comment was posted last week in response to one of our stories about a Burkini model featured in Sports Illustrated. The comment was posted from the profile of Bill Larion, who works part-time as a surveyor for the city of Dearborn.
“Cute picture," Larion wrote. "Should be on the cover of camels are us."
According to CAIR-Michigan, "References to camels is an oft-used dehumanizing racial slur used against persons of Arab ancestry and against Muslims and those who are perceived to be Arab."
Larion's Facebook profile, which publicly indicates his employment with the city's engineering department, has since been deleted.
“Did not come from me," Larion told Action News when we asked him about the comment. He claims his account was hacked.
The City of Dearborn is taking this very seriously.
“The comment violates the city of Dearborn’s values and practices, as well as our expectations for employees," said Mayor John O'Reilly Jr. in a statement. "It violates the very heart of our mission statement, which is that we must earn the public’s trust in everything we do.”
Dozens of 7 Action News viewers have reached out to us with their concerns.
“For someone to say that in the open, I wonder what he says behind closed doors," said Tarek Saleh, who started a petition to have Larion fired. "Especially [when] you work for the city of Dearborn, which the majority is Muslim."
The city is currently investigating the post, which was made after Dearborn city business hours.
"The city requires that all employees treat people of all backgrounds with respect. That expectation carries over into employees’ behavior off hours, when, under certain situations, their actions can be considered a reflection on the City of Dearborn," a city statement read.
“I have zero tolerance for the type of language used in the Facebook comment," O'Reilly told Action News in a statement.
Saleh's petition was taken down Monday, after gaining 120 signatures.
“We’re all about forgiveness," Saleh said.
Many are still calling for Larion's removal. Saleh said at the very least, he'd like an apology. CAIR- Michigan is urging the city to reprimand Larion, who maintains he was hacked and did not author the post.
Larion remains employed with the city of Dearborn.
See the city of Dearborn's full statement below:
"Mayor John B. O’Reilly, Jr. strongly condemns an offensive slur used in a comment on the WXYZ Facebook page and attributed to a part-time City of Dearborn employee, and directed multiple city departments to immediately investigate the source of the remark.
The results of the timely investigation, which the Dearborn Police Department began over the weekend, will determine what action is taken, Mayor O’Reilly said.
The comment was not posted during City of Dearborn business hours, but its content is in opposition to the City’s mission statement.
“I have zero tolerance for the type of language used in the Facebook comment,” Mayor O’Reilly said.
“The comment violates the City of Dearborn’s values and practices, as well as our expectations for employees. It violates the very heart of our mission statement, which is that we must earn the public’s trust in everything we do,” said Mayor O’Reilly.
The City of Dearborn provides employee training addressing discrimination, sexual harassment and cultural sensitivity.
The City requires that all employees treat people of all backgrounds with respect. That expectation carries over into employees’ behavior off hours, when, under certain situations, their actions can be considered a reflection on the City of Dearborn.
“We are extremely proud of our diversity and consider it a strength and an advantage. So we will continue to nurture it and to condemn words or actions that attempt to divide us,” said the Mayor.
The offensive comment being investigated was posted in reaction to a news story about a Muslim woman appearing in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition."