Leavenworth commissioner calls own comments 'disappointing'

Colleague called those comments racist

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. -- A Leavenworth County commissioner under fire for comments he made Thursday now said those comments were disappointing.

Commissioner Louis Klemp made the comments about Leavenworth County's holiday schedule for 2018.

His colleague, Commissioner Bob Holland, characterized Klemp's remarks as racist.

"I found after reviewing my recent comments, I found them disappointing and lacking in clarity," Klemp said Monday.

On Thursday, when discussing the Leavenworth County holiday schedule, Klemp said, "Not everybody does them all because we have Robert E. Lee...Oh God, Robert E. Lee, wonderful part of history."

Before he was finished with his roughly eight-minute speech, Klemp said Abraham Lincoln wasn't popular with some blacks because he didn't emancipate them fast enough.

He also mentioned his great, great grandfather owned a slave, questioned the Martin Luther King, Junior holiday, and wondered why Oprah Winfrey didn't have a federal holiday.

On Monday, Klemp didn't address the specifics of his comments. But he did say they were too long.

"Our taxpayers deserve a more efficient meeting," Klemp said.

Holland called for Klemp's removal from office and an immediate apology on Friday. Holland also witnessed Klemp's comments on Monday.

"I have not changed my mind, and I do not consider that an apology," Holland said. "If you're really sincere about making an apology, you say the words I apologize."

The 41 Action News Investigators tried to speak with Klemp after Monday's meeting.

When asked about Holland's call for his removal from office and if he was defending his comments from Thursday, Klemp said nothing.

"I don't know where he's coming from except it's not good for the county," Holland said.

When asked if he agreed with Holland's assessment of Klemp's remarks as an embarrassment to himself, his family and the county, Klemp walked away and shut a door from the county commission chambers to the commissioners' offices on the 41 Action News Investigators.

Holland said his call for Klemp's removal isn't likely to go anywhere.

According to Klemp's daughter Jennifer, her father had six hours of skin cancer surgery last week and was ordered to rest, but Klemp went to work anyway.

She said it may have affected his comments Thursday.

Additionally, Jennifer said Klemp has spent 50 years of service working with groups of all religious, racial, and ethnic backgrounds.

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