Leavenworth commissioner responds to criticism of holiday comments

Colleague calls for removal from office

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — Leavenworth County Commissioner Bob Holland called for his colleague Commissioner Louis Klemp's removal from office and an immediate apology.

It followed Klemp's remarks at Thursday's board of county commissioners meeting during debate on the county holiday schedule for next year.

"Not everybody does them all because we have Robert E. Lee...Oh God Robert E. Lee...wonderful part of history," Klemp said. 

"Mr. Klemp certainly embarrassed Leavenworth County to the extreme. I just believe he embarrassed himself, his family and our Leavenworth County taxpayers," Holland said.

Klemp was just getting started with his Robert E. Lee comments.

He also said George Washington should have his own holiday but wouldn't because he owned slaves.

Klemp noted his great, great grandfather owned a slave.

"It bothers me that if we're going to have Martin Luther King Day, why don't we have a George Washington? I think George was a pretty important guy," Klemp said.

Holland was at the meeting and listened to Klemp's comments on the holiday schedule. 

They lasted about eight minutes on an issue Holland believes should've taken about 30 seconds of the commission's time.

"I would like to see a violation of some kind brought against him and he be removed from office," Holland said of Klemp.

In addition to his comments on Robert E. Lee, Martin Luther King Jr. and George Washington, Klemp said a lot of African Americans don't like Abraham Lincoln because he didn't move fast enough to emancipate slaves.

He also offered one parting comment about a potential holiday on the county list before voting against it.

"I keep waiting, I didn't see Oprah on there, she's not on there as a federal holiday," Klemp said. "Well, Martha Stewart was the first billionaire so maybe she ought to be on there instead of Oprah."

41 Action News went to Klemp's home wanting to know what compelled him to say such things. 

He declined to go on-camera but told us he based that Oprah remark on an e-mail chain someone forwarded him about a year ago. 

Klemp said he doesn't regret his comments on the holiday schedule. On Monday, Klemp called his comments disappointing.

We showed the video to Leavenworth native Thomas Rodriguez.

"I don't understand what he is thinking about George Washington I mean he's in there with Presidents Day, I don't know why he would bring up Oprah either, Rodriguez said.

He was left simply baffled.

"It doesn't infuriate me or anything. I just didn't quite understand what he wanted," Rodriguez said.

Klemp was not elected to the Leavenworth County Commission.

Republican Party precinct captains from the second district chose Klemp to replace Clyde Graeber.

Graeber resigned in September due to health issues.

Leavenworth County Treasurer Janice Van Parys nominated Klemp at that Republican meeting.

She said she didn't hear Klemp's remarks at Thursday's meeting so she declined to comment.

Her husband and Leavenworth County Attorney David Van Parys seconded his wife's nomination of Klemp at the GOP meeting.

David Van Parys was at the meeting Thursday when Klemp made his comments about the holiday schedule.

The 41 Action News Investigators were unable to reach David Van Parys for comment.

"I think it was a conflict of interest for David to support Klemp because he now works for him," Holland said. "I'm a Republican and right now I'm embarrassed to be a Republican."

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