A week after Curt Dougherty's comments during an Independence City Council meeting that many deemed racist or bigoted, which led to some calls for his resignation, two of his council colleagues offered their apologies and rebukes Monday.
In a council discussion last week about proposed medical marijuana facility regulations, Dougherty rattled off some types of businesses for which the city has some limitations and referred to discount smoke shops in the city as “owned mostly by Middle Easterns who will sell anything out the back door.”
The comment elicited some murmurs from the citizens who attended that meeting, but no follow-up from council members. Dougherty did not attend Monday's special called meeting, which included just one voted item, and short study session, but Karen DeLuccie said she apologized for being caught off-guard and not issuing an immediate retort and John Perkins said he had been reading the flurry of proposed amendments and missed Dougherty's comment when he first uttered it.
The Service Employees International Union Local 1, which says it represents 50,000 custodians and food service workers in six Midwest states, including almost 300 in Independence, echoed last week's request from Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations that Dougherty resign.
Also last week, the regional group Crescent Peace Society said it requested dialogue with Dougherty, calling it “an opportunity for us to learn from one another and stand together against casual xenophobia,” and said it would support the call for resignation if Dougherty stood by or doubled down on his comment.
Reached after Monday's meeting, Dougherty said he had no comment regarding either the calls for his resignation or his statements last week.
Mayor Eileen Weir also did not attend Monday's meeting.
Tila Garcia-Ramsey, representing SEIU Local 1 and speaking with a translator, read part of the letter the union sent to Dougherty.
The letter said that no matter the background, most people want the same things – higher wages, better benefits and a brighter future for loved ones – and Dougherty's prejudiced words disparaged Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent and further divides people against each other.
“Remarks like yours inhibit the ability for all of us to come together across racial lines to make our region better for everyone,” the letter read. “These types of bigoted comments have no place in our region’s public discourse.”
Saying that she's sorry if some think it too late, DeLuccie apologized “for not reacting to the hurtful, divisive statements made from this dais.”
“I was caught off-guard, I was shocked by the appalling statements, I should have immediately spoken and I apologize because I did not,” she said.
DeLuccie went on to say she grew to love Independence because of its diversity of people from all walks of life and “immense number of citizens who volunteer” at various events.
“Please do not allow ignorant statements to define and stain our city,” she said.
Perkins said he had been reading through marijuana facility amendments proposed by DeLuccie and initially missed Dougherty's comments.
“I do not believe in his comments, I apologize that I did not hear them,” Perkins said. “He does not speak for myself, or the First District.”