Ind. “Diversity Czar” with history of racist tweets, highest paid in Gov.’s Office, honored by South Bend Chamber

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Despite her history of racist and homophobic tweets, Indiana’s new Chief Equity, Inclusion & Opportunity Officer continues to be honored for her influence. Next week, the South Bend Regional Chamber is bestowing their 2021 Woman of Influence award to Karrah Herring.

It turns out, Herring is also reaping a financial reward. REAL News Michiana discovered Herring is the highest paid member of the Governor’s Office. Her annual salary is listed as $164,999.90. That’s more than $30,000 than Governor Holcomb, who is paid $133,683. And approximately $17,000 more than the next highest paid employee of the Governor’s Office, according to public records.

RNM uncovered several disturbing tweets written by Herring around the time she started working for the University of Notre Dame. You can read that entire story here. Below are examples of those tweets.

In January 2011, she referred to “white folk” as corporate criminals.

In September 2011, she wrote “some of these white parents & children have never seen color,” referring to private schools.

Also in September of 2011, Herring retweeted someone saying “they are racist heartless White ppl.”

In February 2011, she wrote “I have gotten hit on by so many white boys… I’m NOT fulfilling ur fantasy honey! Pink Penis=No go.”

In August 2010, Herring wrote what appears to be a negative post about the gay community. “A man who constantly complains about women not being wht he needs & not on his level… is gay!”

RNM Reached out to South Bend Regional Chamber President, Jeff Rae, to get comment about the tweets and the award. Below is his emailed statement:

Prior to the awards process, we solicit nominations from the different award categories, we receive them, and then have a group of volunteers review the nominations and make a recommendation. We had quite a few excellent nominations for the Woman of Influence Award, including several for Karrah Herring. After review, our committee unanimously chose Mrs. Herring.

We do these awards each year, for as far back as our records go. I am proud of our effort to highlight talented individuals and companies in our region. We rely heavily on the input of our volunteers and the experiences they and our team have had with the nominated individuals. We’ve worked with Mrs. Herring for many years in various ways during her time at the University of Notre Dame. We’ve found her to be a dedicated volunteer, she’s worked closely with a wide variety of people, and in our experience only exhibited warmth and kindness to them all. I personally have never witnessed any of the characteristics you have suggested, nor had any of volunteers raise any concerns about Mrs. Herring during any of our discussions or interactions. Instead, we only heard positive stories about the inspiration she has been to others and about the positive ways she has influenced others. We’re honoring Mrs. Herring for that good work.

Herring’s position is being paid for by a $250,000 grant from the CenterPoint Energy Foundation. According to CenterPoint’s own grant rules, the organization does not provide funding to “organizations that discriminate on the basis of race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, age or religion.” The organization also claims not to provide funding to “political, labor, military, international or fraternal organizations.”

CenterPoint Energy refused to answer any questions from RNM, referring all inquiries to the Governor’s Office.

That private funding may have allowed the Governor to bypass some legislative oversight as well. Since the legislature is responsible for approving budgets, it appears this grant may not have needed legislative approval. RNM requested detailed information about the budgeting process for the position from the Governor’s Office and received an old press release that simply said the position was being paid for by the CenterPoint grant. RNM is still seeking more information regarding any legislative oversight. The story will be updated when that information is uncovered.

Republican Governor, Eric Holcomb, nominated Herring to the newly created position after protests and ensuing riots in Indianapolis following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where video captured an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than 8 minutes. As the Chief Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Officer, Herring is poised to have one of the most powerful positions in Indiana state government.

According to a news release from the governor’s office in November, “The officer will focus on improving state government operations as well as drive systemic change to remove hurdles in the government workplace and services the state provides. Herring will help agencies develop strategic plans to remove any barriers. As a member of the governor’s cabinet, Herring will report directly to the governor.”

Before taking the government position, Herring held several influential positions at Notre Dame, where she started working in 2011. Her last position was as the Director of Public Affairs. She’s also served on “Notre Dame’s Human Resource’s Senior Leadership Team as director of the Office of Institutional Equity and Title IX coordinator. In this role, Herring provided oversight and support of the university’s efforts to comply with federal and state civil rights laws related to policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Herring created Notre Dame’s affirmative action plans, had oversight of employee disability compliance for the campus, and oversaw workplace investigations falling under Title VII and Title IX.” According to the Governor’s news release. She received her undergraduate degree from Purdue University. She later earned her law degree from Valparaiso University.

When Holcomb announced the creation of the diversity czar in August 2020, he said the following in a statement:

“This person will be a member of the Governor’s Cabinet – reporting directly to me… this new Cabinet member will help every state agency raise their game.”

REAL News Michiana reached out to Governor Holcomb’s office for comment on Herring’s posts. RNM sent copies of the posts in email and left a voicemail. The Governor’s office never responded.

Herring did not responded to requests for comment either.

Herring’s twitter account is now deactivated.

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