A county official in Michigan used a racial slur at a public meeting and later said in an interview that he did not regret it. Now several officials, including the state’s governor, are calling for him to resign.
Leelanau County Road Commissioner Tom Eckerle was asked before a Road Commission meeting on Tuesday why he was not wearing a mask. According to local reports, Eckerle responded by saying: “Well this whole thing is because of them n***** down in Detroit.”
Road Commission Chairman Bob Joyce quickly responded, telling Eckerle he couldn’t say that, according to the Leelanau Enterprise, which first reported on the story.
Eckerle doubled down on his use of the racial slur when asked during an interview if he regretted it. “No, I don’t regret calling it an n*****,” he told Interlochen Public Radio on Thursday. “A n***** is a n***** is a n*****. That’s not a person whatsoever.” He said he will not resign from the road commission, the radio station reports.
Several officials in the state have called for Eckerle to resign, including Michigan Public Service Commission Chair Dan Scripps. Republican State Rep. Jack O’Malley also said that after learning about the incident he asked Eckerle to resign, but he refused.
“I called Mr. Eckerle to confirm he made these comments. He confirmed that he did,” O’Malley said in a statement. O’Malley represents Michigan’s House District 101, which includes Leelanau County.
In a Facebook post, O’Malley shared a link to his official statement, adding that Eckerle “is in the early part of an elected six year term. If he refuses to resign there are 2 options that I am aware of. The citizens can petition for a recall, or, the County Board can request that the Governor remove him.”
“In today’s emotional and highly charged climate to say what he said is ignorant and has no place, especially as an elected official,” O’Malley’s post continued. “I did remind him he represents everyone in Leelanau County as I do…. and his comments were and are beyond stupid. I hope Mr. Eckerle can come to see his mistakes and resign.”
Governor Gretchen Whitmer also believes Eckerle must resign immediately. “His comments are atrocious,” the governor’s press secretary, Tiffany Brown, said in an email to CBS News on Friday. “The Governor has been very clear — there’s no place for hate and racism in Michigan.”
The Leelanau County Road Commission also put out a letter, asking for Eckerle to resign. The letter, signed commission’s chair, vice chair and two members, said they do not condone the racist comments and they will not tolerate “any kind of racism in our meeting room or in our organization.”
CBS News has reached out to the county road commission for comment, as well as contact information for Eckerle, and is awaiting response.
Eckerle’s use of a racist slur during a public meeting came the same week Whitmer signed an executive directive declaring racism as a public health crisis in Michigan on Wednesday, according to CBS Detroit affiliate WWJ. Coronavirus has Black communities in Michigan and elsewhere across the U.S.
“#COVID19 has highlighted what Black & Brown communities have always known — inequities caused by systemic racism can be deadly. We’re confronting this head on,” Whitmer tweeted on Wednesday.