COBLESKILL MAYOR RESIGNS OVER REMARKS

Alleged use of "n-word" in secret recordings fuels protests; Nadeau apology

DENNIS YUSKO STAFF WRITER
Section: Main,  Page: A1

Date: Wednesday, July 21, 2010

COBLESKILL -- A racial controversy involving President Obama in this agricultural town prompted Village Mayor Mark Nadeau to resign Tuesday night during a town meeting where more than 100 residents demanded answers.


Nadeau walked out of the Village Board meeting after apologizing for racial remarks he and Town Supervisor Tom Murray allegedly made in separate conversations. The remarks became public in late-June when Highway Superintendent Tom Fissell secretly recorded the conversations on audio tape in his office.


In one audio clip, Nadeau allegedly used the N-word to make fun of the president's campaign slogan.


"That's what change means, you know. What's that? Come... help... get... a... (N-word) elected. Oh, change. That's the platform he ran on. What do you think I'm running on. Change. I'm a (N-word). I've been treated like one."


In another clip, Murray allegedly used the N-word when talking about Martin Luther King Day. "...and the other thing, too, is the, the holiday. (N-word) day. Martin Luther Day."


On Tuesday, after emerging from a more than one hour executive session with the board, Nadeau denied he was a racist and apologized for anything he said that may have created a climate of hostility.


He said that he was resigning, in part, to stem the controversy, which he called not good for the community. "This is not an admission of guilt," Nadeau said, who was elected to office in 2009. "My family is number one. This community has hurt my family."


A large crowd in the Cobleskill Fire Department erupted into cheers after Nadeau announced his resignation.


"I commend him for doing the right thing for Cobleskill," town resident Dave Keenan said. "He recognized the magnitude of his actions."


Keenan, 35, is a member of the Concerned Citizens of Cobleskill group that formed after the racist comments came to light. The group recently started a petition calling on Nadeau and Murray resign.


Murray did not attend Tuesday's meeting, but Keenan insisted that the supervisor step down.


Many members of the crowd held signs protesting the slurs. "Simply, morally, ethically wrong." one read. "Free Speech Does Not Justify Hate Speech," another said.


Nadeau said that the town would develop an anti-bias program and a committee that he would serve on. It was not clear late Tuesday how the village would choose a new mayor. The Village Board has five members, including the mayor.


Bill Van Handel was one of a few speakers to support Nadeau.


Van Handel said he was friends with the former mayor, and that Nadeau was not a racist. People should forgive Nadeau and put the episode in the past, he said. Van Handel said that many people say and think the same things, but aren't recorded.


But Effie Bennett-Powe, a black teacher from town who described herself as the daughter of sharecroppers, called Nadeau's comments archaic and obscene.


"All words have meaning, and words do hurt. Words hurt badly," Bennett-Powe said.





Inside


A10 Cobleskill residents speak out about racist talk and the town.