Thursday, May 13, 2004

Hudson, NH Official and Slurs 

Queerday had a pointer this morning to this brief report on WNNE31's website, about the Hudson, NH board of selectman giving their chairman a warning after he admitted telling a resident that gays should be shot if they come over the border into the state. Apparently Chairman Bill Cole said he meant the remark to be flip and not derogatory. The other selectman gave him a formal warning, but support his contention that he didn't intend to be "malicious or disrespectful." He was also alleged to have made derogatory comments about Italians and African-Americans.

I wondered what the details were behind this story. What was the context in which he made this remark? Is there a context in which this would not be both malicious and disrespectful? I found two other articles, here and here. From these additional reports it seems that local resident Jean Serino spoke to the Board on March 8 to complain about the comments Cole made to her on February 25. Serino had come to town hall to get names and addresses of state politicians she planned to contact and request that they not support the then upcoming bill barring recognition of same sex marriage. At the meeting last night, Serino admitted the shoot-the-gays comment, stating:

“Did I make an outrageous statement in response to this? Yes I did,” Cole said. “Did I intend to make an outrageous response to this? Yes I did. Did I intend to be derogatory against any group? No I did not.”

Cole said he “couldn’t resist the opportunity to pull her chain to make a flip comment as it were.”

He also said that Serino's statements regarding the conversation were merely a "clumsy attempt to have me removed from office." Serino stood after Cole's address and renewed her allegations, accusing him of attempting to slander her. I could find no specific information on the alleged racial and ethnic comments.

The Board of Selectmen, despite formally warning Cole, showed their continued support for him by voting to keep Cole in his leadership position. After the vote, selectman Kathleen MacLean made this statement:

“Selectman Cole, sharing along with all of us the flaws of an imperfect human being, has proven to have a wealth of experience in town matters,” MacLean said after the vote. “I do believe he cares deeply about the town of Hudson and working for the common good of all its citizens.”

His admitted statements and his defense of those statements fly in the face of MacLean's supportive statement. Even assuming that he's being truthful in that he was just trying to "pull her chain," his decision that this was an appropriate response to one of the citizens for whose good he is supposed to be working, or that an offhanded comment that anyone should be shot for entering the state, reveals an astounding lack of concern for common human decency, let alone political savvy or that he gained anything from his "wealth of experience in town matters."

Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:51 AM