The town manager and board of selectmen in the predominantly white New Hampshire town of Wolfeboro have officially joined residents in demanding the resignation of a police commissioner who refused to apologize after being overheard calling President Barack Obama "the N-word."
Wolfeboro town manager David Owen posted a message on the town's website calling on 82-year-old Robert Copeland to resign the post he was re-elected to in March.
More than 100 residents packed the commission's meeting Thursday to demand Copeland's resignation.
In Friday's online posting, Owen said Copeland's comments are "appalling." He called on him to save the town further embarrassment and resign.
Copeland has said he won't apologize for using the racial slur. Local resident Jane O'Toole says she overheard him use the slur in a restaurant and wrote to town officials to complain.
Copeland acknowledged in an email to fellow police commissioners that he had used the slur, saying he believed he used the N-word "in reference to the current occupant of the Whitehouse" and Obama "meets and exceeds" his criteria for such.
He also wrote: "While I believe the problems associated with minorities in this country are momentous, I am not phobic."
Copeland is one of three members of the police commission, which hires, fires and disciplines officers and sets their salaries. He ran unopposed for re-election to the commission and secured another three-year term on March 11.
Wolfeboro Town Manager David Owen said Thursday that while he finds Copeland's comment "reprehensible," he and the board of selectmen have no authority to remove an elected official. Owen said he expected a large number of residents will call for Copeland's resignation at the police commission meeting, adding "more power to them."
Copeland has declined to be interviewed. Commission Chairman Joseph Balboni Jr. told the Concord Monitor he doesn't plan to ask Copeland to resign. He said, "He's worked with a lot of blacks in his life. ... He said some harsh words about Mr. Obama, and here we are. This woman, she's blowing it all out of proportion."
O'Toole, who moved to Wolfeboro four months ago, said she overheard Copeland use the racial slur to describe Obama at a local restaurant on March 6. She said she didn't know Copeland was the police commissioner until she returned to the restaurant the next day and asked about him.
She wrote to the town manager in early April, and he replied that he was powerless to act.
She then wrote to Copeland's two fellow police commissioners. In an email response to her, Copeland included the excerpt from the email he had sent to the other commissioners.
About 20 black people live in Wolfeboro, a town of 6,300 residents in the scenic Lakes Region, in the central part of New Hampshire. The town manager's office said none of the police department's 12 full-time officers is black or a member of another minority. One of its part-time officers is black.
New Hampshire has no recall provision for elected officials.
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