The head of the Saline County Commission on Friday urged people to forgive a GOP commissioner who used a racial slur in a public meeting, although two leading Kansas Republican groups have condemned the official.
Commission Chairman Randy Duncan told The Associated Press that commissioners have not pressured Commissioner Jim Gile to resign after he used a variant of a racial slur to imply a job done sloppily or hastily last week while the commission was discussing whether to hire an architect for a county roof repair project.
When asked what he meant by the slur, Gile replied: “Afro-Americanized.”
Gile, 68, has also been criticized for the publicly apology he issued at Tuesday’s commission meeting. In it, Gile said he was not a prejudiced person and noted that he has built Habitat for Humanity homes for “colored people.”
Gile, who was elected to his first term in 2012, did not return phone messages from AP seeking comment Friday and did not respond to an email.
“When they say sorry and apologize, I think the right thing to do is to forgive and move on and put this behind us,” Duncan told AP Friday.
The Kansas Republican Party and the Kansas Young Republicans issued statements Thursday to the Salina Journal criticizing Gile.
“The Kansas Republican Party unequivocally condemns the racially inappropriate and deeply offensive comments of Saline County Commissioner Jim Gile and his awkward apology,” the state GOP said in a statement. “His comments do not in any way reflect the beliefs of the party, its voters and its elected officials. His statement was his alone.”
Republican Rep. J.R. Claeys of Salina has called for Gile to resign and has expressed disappointment in Duncan for not calling Gile out in the meeting for the offensive comments.
Duncan acknowledged there was laughter in the room when Gile made the comments, but said he would describe it as “nervous laughter.” He said it is one thing to listen to the tape of the meeting afterward and another to be there.
Pressed as to why he did not object at the time, Duncan replied, “We are all commissioners. We are all on equal footing as public officials, and we are responsible. We get credit, or take blame, for whatever we say.”
Duncan said Gile’s apology was a difficult moment for him and the community, but something that had to be done.
“He made the statement. He recognized he was wrong. We all recognize it was wrong and it was not the appropriate thing to say,” Duncan said. “He acknowledged that fact and he has apologized. Where we go from here is up to Commissioner Giles.”