Mecklenburg County commissioners Chair Jennifer Roberts said Wednesday that colleague Bill James should apologize for using a slur during an exchange with another board member, and said she may ask commissioners whether to take any further action.
The incident occurred Tuesday during a meeting in which a majority of commissioners agreed to offer domestic-partner benefits to county workers in same-sex relationships starting in 2011.
Toward the end of an emotional, two-hour debate on the topic, James leaned over to commissioner Vilma Leake and asked: "Your son was a homo, really?"
Leake responded: "You're going to make me hurt you. Don't do that to me. Don't talk about my son."
Leake had just finished speaking about her personal connection to the debate, including mentioning her son's 1993 death from AIDS. "To be insensitive to that is completely inappropriate," Roberts said Wednesday. "I think he does owe her an apology."
But James said he won't apologize, and said he was only asking Leake to clarify an earlier comment she made about her son's death and his lifestyle. He said he wasn't making a derogatory comment, and used a slang word used when he was growing up.
"People can believe whatever they want, they can believe in the tooth fairy and legend of Atlantis," James said. "I don't determine what I do based on what people think. I determine it based on what I did and what I did was I asked a question and that question doesn't deserve or require an apology."
Leake did not return calls seeking comment. But she told Qcitymetro.com she thinks the board should censure James.
"I'm not waiting or holding my breath to receive an apology from Bill James," Leake told the news Web site. "I'm not sure he understands what it means, because his values are so different from the rest of society."
James has come under fire before, including a 2004 email in which he wrote that urban blacks "live in a moral sewer."
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