CFPB official's writings make him 'unfit' for job, agency union says

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The union representing employees at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Tuesday called on the agency to take "swift and decisive action" in dealing with a political appointee at the agency whose incendiary writings posted 14 years have sparked an uproar throughout the bureau.

The blog posts by Eric Blankenstein, the CFPB’s policy director of supervision, enforcement and fair lending, "indicate that he is unfit for any leadership position in the federal government," wrote Anthony M. Reardon, the national president of the National Treasury Employees Union, in a letter sent Monday to acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney.

Blankenstein wrote on the blog posts that people who use racial slurs are not racists and that most hate crimes are “hoaxes.” After the writings were first revealed in a Washington Post report last week, several senior officials at the agency have withdrawn support for Blankenstein.

The NTEU represents employees at roughly 30 federal government agencies.

Mulvaney has not commented on the blog posts from 2004 and 2005, but three senior CFPB officials have raised objections and suggested Blankenstein is not fit to be the agency’s top enforcer of anti-discrimination laws.

In a 2004 post, Blankenstein wrote: “Fine … let’s say they called him a n----, would that make them racists, or just a-----s looking for the most convenient way to get under his skin?”

Reardon said the posts run counter to the nation’s civil service principles and are particularly offensive for someone charged with leading the fair-lending program.

“That someone with a history of racially derogatory and offensive comments has a leadership position at CFPB reflects poorly on CFPB management and your commitment to fulfilling the mandate of the agency to ensure that discriminatory and predatory lending practices are stopped,” he wrote. “There should be zero tolerance for comments that Blankenstein has admitted authoring and nothing less than swift and decisive action is called for.”

Reardon also asked Mulvaney to halt a restructuring of the CFPB’s fair lending office. That restructuring would give Blankenstein more direct oversight of the agency’s efforts to combat discriminatory lending practices. The NTEU represents rank-and-file employees at the CFPB but not management.

“These statements on the part of CFPB management call into question the current reorganization of the Office of Fair Lending,” Reardon wrote. “That reorganization must be paused, and we believe a full review is needed to assess its impact on the office’s mission, especially since the reorganization puts scrutiny over discriminatory practices more directly under Blankenstein’s oversight.”

Blankenstein, a political appointee hired earlier this year by Mulvaney, tried to defuse the fallout at the agency from his posts by sending an email to the CFPB's staff saying that he regrets his “choice of words.”

“The tone and framing of my statements reflected poor judgment,” Blankenstein wrote in an email to the bureau’s 1,700 employees Monday. “I recognize that many of you had a visceral reaction to reading what I wrote in some of my old blog posts. I did too.”

Patrice Ficklin, the CFPB’s assistant director of fair lending and equal opportunity, was the first senior CFPB official to denounce Blankenstein's writings, followed by Kirsten Donoghue, the CFPB’s assistant director of enforcement, who said her feelings were shared by the entire enforcement division of roughly 100 attorneys.

Christopher D'Angelo, the CFPB's associate director for supervision, enforcement and fair lending, sent an email to staff stating, "Hate speech cannot be tolerated."

All three officials report to Blankenstein.

The CFPB did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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