Over 600 Paris residents, citizens, and registered voters signed an open letter to the Paris Board of Selectmen to protest the firing of Town Manager Sharon Jackson. The letter appeared in the Sun Journal on July 10.

Since then, Board Chairman David Ivey and supporters have discounted, de-valued, and mocked the signers. The most recent attempt, as detailed in an article published Aug. 6 in the Advertiser-Democrat, in which Ivey “claimed that the list of 600-plus citizens complaining about Jackson’s firing … contained several minors and mentally challenged adults.”

At Paris Selectmen’s Aug. 10 meeting, three citizens questioned Ivey on his words “mentally challenged adults.” Ivey sputtered it was only his opinion, he was not representing anyone else.

The chairman of the selectmen certainly does speak for “anyone else.” When an elected official speaks of the people he represents using terms associated with bigotry, ignorance, or just plain meanness, he is in the wrong and needs to be held to account.

“Mentally challenged adults” is as offensive a term as certain phrases are to people of color, as certain phrases are to demeaning women, as certain phrases are to people of different race and ethnic origin.

Fellow selectmen should make it clear to Ivey that they do not condone offensive, bigoted, ignorant, or mean statements made in public referring to the people they all represent.

And the public deserves an apology from Ivey.

Kathleen Richardson, Paris

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