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Michigan civil rights director takes leave after comments

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016 file photo, Michigan Department of Civil Rights Director Agustin Arbulu, second right, speaks about a new service animal law in Lansing, Mich. Then Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, left, carries a patch that people with service animals will be able to obtain for free from the state to affix to their animal's vest. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, that Arbulu should resign or be fired after he made inappropriate, offensive comments about women. (AP Photo/David Eggert, File)

LANSING (AP) — The embattled director of Michigan’s civil rights department has taken a leave of absence, weeks after he was reprimanded for making inappropriate remarks about the appearance of a woman he saw outside a meeting.

The state Civil Rights Commission on Tuesday gave no reason for 69-year-old Agustin Arbulu’s request for leave, which was made Monday, nor did it say how long the leave will last or if he will continue to be paid.

He earns approximately $159,000 a year.

Arbulu, a Republican, has faced calls to resign from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and others after a male communications analyst for the agency complained that Arbulu repeatedly commented about the woman’s appearance during a break from a May listening session on the planned reconfiguration of the Grosse Pointe Public School System in suburban Detroit. The employee, who is gay, said he told Arbulu the statements were not OK and Arbulu responded that “he would not understand because he did not like women.”

An investigator reviewing the incident said Arbulu told her if he did make inappropriate comments, he was referring to his adult daughter.

Mary Engelman, deputy director of the Department of Civil Rights, was named acting director by Alma Wheeler Smith, chairwoman of the Civil Rights Commission.

“I’m confident Mary will do an exemplary job of leading the department and guiding our efforts to refocus on the many civil rights challenges that face us,” the Democrat said in a written statement.