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Board of education member rejects calls for his resignation

January 28, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska State Board of Education member refused to leave office Wednesday despite a vote from his colleagues that called for his resignation due to racist content on his blog.

The board voted 6-2 in favor of a resolution asking for Pat McPherson to resign, joining a chorus of elected officials that have called on McPherson to step down after several blog posts referred to President Barack Obama as a “half-breed.”

The Republican has disavowed the posts and said he did not write them, but has refused to identify the author. McPherson read a statement Wednesday, reiterating he isn’t a racist but acknowledging he didn’t adequately monitor his now-defunct “Objective Conservative” blog. The “half-breed” references appeared numerous times since 2011.

“While I understand the disruption this issue has created, I will not allow it to overturn an election,” he said. “For those who say my presence ... will impede the board in doing its job, I say that such a notion is false.”

The board’s nonbinding resolution says the “storm of attention and outrage” over the posting is likely to continue and distract from its mission. McPherson can’t be recalled by voters. The Legislature can only impeach him for criminal conduct, malfeasance or a violation of the public trust.

The resolution also cited the public figures who have called for McPherson to leave office, including Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and U.S. Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse. The Nebraska Democratic Party has said McPherson either wrote the posts himself or is covering for the person who did because of his refusal to name the author.

McPherson, of Omaha, and board member Glen Flint, of Springfield, were the lone “no” votes. McPherson promised to collaborate with board members despite the vote, and asked the public to form judgments based on their work with him on school issues.

Board member Maureen Nickels, of Chapman, said she was always held accountable for what she wrote and said as a classroom teacher for 26 years. She noted the board has been asked before to take licenses from teachers because of public statements.

“Most of those teachers, if not all, apologized for their mistakes. They admitted their mistakes. But their districts were not willing to tolerate it,” Nickels said. ”... I believe we need to hold ourselves to that same accountability.”

Board member Lillie Larsen, of Lincoln, said she believes the board has a duty to treat all people with civility.

Wednesday’s meeting was filled McPherson supporters and people who opposed him. Many supporters arrived by bus, wearing pro-McPherson and anti-Common Core stickers.

McPherson defeated Bob Meyers, an Omaha teacher, in the November general election. Doug Kagan, the president of Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, said McPherson’s political opponents should have raised the issue during the campaign.

“He’s done nothing illegal, he’s done nothing unconstitutional, and he didn’t violate any rules or regulations of the State Board of Education,” Kagan said.

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