Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other state officials called Friday for Leelanau County road commissioner Tom Eckerle to resign his office after he was heard using a racial slur during a public meeting.
The altercation arose on Tuesday after an official asked Eckerle, who was elected road commissioner in 2018, why he wasn’t wearing a mask for the proceedings. In response, Eckerle used a racial slur and began criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement, claiming “this whole thing is because of them [expletive] down in Detroit.”
Leelanau County Road Commission chairman Bob Joyce intervened and scolded Eckerle, who continued to rant.
“I can say anything I want,” Eckerle said, according to the Leelanau Enterprise. “Black Lives Matter has everything to do with taking the country away from us.”
Eckerle’s remarks were audible on a dial-in line for the meeting that was open to the public. The other members of the Leelanau County Road Commission have asked for Eckerle, a Republican, to resign.
Earlier this week, Whitmer declared racism to be a public health crisis in the state of Michigan. In her announcement, the Democratic governor said Black and Hispanic communities had been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic because of systemic racism within public institutions.
Whitmer, a Democrat, also asked Eckerle to step down over his use of the slur.
“Governor Whitmer believes that Road Commissioner Tom Eckerle must resign immediately. His comments are atrocious,” a spokesperson for the governor told The Detroit News. “The Governor has been very clear – there’s no place for hate and racism in Michigan.”
Eckerle admitted use of the slur and refused to apologize during an interview on local public radio in which he used the slur several more times.