A Republican county commissioner in rural Kansas is resisting calls for his resignation after a comment he made during a public meeting last week.
Saline County Commissioner Jim Gile (R) used the term "nigger-rigging" during a commission discussion April 2 about hiring an architect to work on a county building, the Salina Journal reported on Saturday. Gile apologized for the comments, but residents called for his resignation during a commission meeting Tuesday afternoon.
In a recording made by County Clerk Don Merriman of the study session, Gile, who is white, can be heard to say the county needed to hire an architect to design the improvements rather than "nigger-rigging it."
His comment brought laughter from others in the room. Salinan Ray Hruska, who attends most commission meetings and study sessions, asked Gile what he said.
"Afro-Americanized," Gile replied.
"He's like that congressman from Alaska," Commission Chairman Randy Duncan can be heard to say of Gile's comment.
Gile told the Salina Journal that he knew the term he used from when he was growing up and that he meant to say "jury-rigged." He also insisted that he is not racist, noting that a friend he considers a sister is black.
"I am not a prejudiced person," Gile told the Salina Journal. "I have built Habitat homes for colored people."
Gile kicked off Tuesday's county commission meeting by apologizing again, Salina Journal reporter Chris Hunter posted on Twitter. County and state Democrats are questioning whether Gile should continue in office.
Kansas Democratic Party spokesman Dakota Loomis told The Huffington Post that Gile should rethink his stance.
"It's shocking in this day and age that he would use this type of language and find it to be such a non-issue," Loomis said. "He needs to take a real hard look at how he represents the people in Saline County. This demonstrates a complete and utter lack of awareness. It calls into question his fitness to serve."
Gile is not the first Republican to find himself in hot water in the last year over racially tinged remarks. In 2012, Inge Marler, a Tea Party leader in rural Arkansas, was forced to step down after making a racist joke during a rally. The Montana Republican Party was criticized for having a bullet-riddled outhouse marked as the "Obama Presidential Library" at its state convention also in 2012.
UPDATE: A Republican lawmaker has added his voice to those criticizing Gile for his remarks. State Rep. J.R. Claeys (R-Salina) said that Gile's remark and the fact that it was backed up during the meeting raises concerns about the county government, which he called "dysfunctional." He also said that Gile's attempt to use his age to mask the comment is unacceptable, noting that people should know that the term he used is discriminatory.
"I think every citizen in our county should take a long, hard look at every individual in that room who allowed those comments to slide without immediately correcting and repudiating, not one, but multiple comments that are absolutely unacceptable in private, let alone a public meeting," Claeys told HuffPost. "This speaks to a systemic problem with the makeup and operation of county government that is already viewed as a good ol' boys club and needs to be dismantled by the people in such a way that it can no longer operate in this manner."