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Louis Klemp, Leavenworth County commissioner, resigns after 'master race' remark

Posted at 9:13 AM, Nov 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-20 20:03:54-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Leavenworth County, Kansas Commissioner under fire for comments some people perceived as racist has resigned his position.

During a County Commissioners meeting Tuesday morning, Leavenworth County Clerk Janet Klasinski read a resignation letter from Klemp.

The two remaining commissioners, Doug Smith and Bob Holland, both voted to accept Klemp's resignation.

Klemp, who's 80 years old, had been under fire and faced calls to resign from several people – including Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer — for comments he made at a county commission meeting last Tuesday.

At one point during his comments last Tuesday, Klemp addressed an African-American woman named Triveece Penelton who had just presented the study. 

"I don’t want you to think I am picking on you because we are part of the master race. You have a gap in your teeth. We are part of the master race, don’t you forget that," Klemp said.

"Mr. Klemp has done the right thing, a good example that the choice of words does matter.  I do not believe that the term master race should ever be used, there's a human race, there is no master race," fellow Commissioner Smith said.

In his resignation letter, Klemp writes he regrets his recent comment and the negative backlash for the community.

He also writes, "I have reached out to the presenter and extended my regret and support."

That presenter, Triveece Penelton, released a statement to 41 Action News Tuesday, calling his comments "unbelievably inappropriate."

"According to news outlets, he has since commented that use of such phrasing was a joke. Global history and racial/ethnic concerns in the United States describe the tremendous damage use of such terminology and similar wording has caused. It is inexcusable. As a successful African American planner with 16 years of professional experience, I have been subjected to a wide range of tactless and at times covertly racist comments. However, no one's words have been more unthinking than Mr. Klemp's. In fact, his careless remarks have gone viral."

Penelton said she hopes "our nation and the world will learn from this moment and recognize that respect for one another's history, culture, perspective and impact is essential."

"Some of the things he said in the past were worse than what was said at this time," Holland said.

The week of the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, speaking about Leavenworth County Courthouse security, Klemp said at the October 30 commissioners meeting, "We don't know what security is. We need to get a Jewish gentleman who's in charge of security. He'll tell you how to make this secure.”

Nearly a year ago, 41 Action News reported Holland's call for Klemp to resign after he made several comments about the county's holiday schedule.

It included Klemp noting Robert E. Lee didn't have his own holiday.

"Oh God, Robert E. Lee, wonderful part of history," Klemp said at a 2017 meeting.

Klemp later apologized publicly at another commission meeting, but Holland's call for Klemp's removal from office went nowhere at that time.

"It went unnoticed and I was very disturbed by that," Holland said.

READ: How did Klemp even become a commissioner?