A remark was made near the end of Tuesday’s meeting of Galion City Council that has set the Internet buzzing and has generated at least two published media stories prior to this one. It should be noted that one of the two published stories was written by someone who was not in attendance, and the other is only a partial excerpt of a full story to be published tomorrow.
Since that night, GalionLive has two e-mails from those in attendance, as well as communication on Friday morning from Councilwoman Roberta Wade. All of them have been highly critical of the comment made by Councilman Ken Bodkins and of the alleged reaction by particular members of the audience.
That shared, GalionLive was in an excellent position to witness the incident. In fact, the reporters from GalionLive and the Galion Inquirer were sitting directly next to Councilman Dr. Thomas Fellner, who in turn was sitting next to Wade and then Bodkins.
The exchange began when Councilman Paul Flannery inquired of Bodkins during Council’s “Other Business” as to the status of the proposed fence project at Heise Park. After relaying that he was uncertain about that due to not hearing back yet from Dr. Ressallat, the adjacent property owner. Bodkins continued by saying, “He’s probably out in a camel race somewhere, I don’t know…”
Dr. Mehdi Ressallat is well-known and respected local physician. Community consensus is that the remark was an unacceptable ethnic slur.
Wade’s communication to area media received this morning reads in part:
“I am still outraged at Ken Bodkins’ racial slur Tuesday night. For those of you who weren’t there, you could hear the whole audience gasp when he said it. The air was just sucked out of the room.
I can understand that those of you who were there just didn’t know what to do, and that you needed to have the whole exact quote absolutely correctly. But this was just outrageous — any remark insulting race, religion, national origin, disability, etc. cannot be tolerated. If Bodkins were a newscaster, he would have already been fired.
The actions of some of the City officials afterwards are another whole issue. I immediately said ‘I can’t believe he said that.’ Dr. Fellner just hung his head down, and Mr. Flannery just sat quietly. The rest acted like it was funny joke at Dr. Ressallat’s expense.”
Wade is absolutely correct; there was both an audible gasp and a burst of laughter when the remark was made. At the time most if not all of the noise, however, sounded more like the type of spontaneous nervous laughter when confronted with an unexpected and tragic event than the type which would indicate that a laughing person believed that the remark was actually appropriate or funny. It is also unknown what the precise reaction of each Council member was, and it is not certain that all were part of that sound. That shared, others in the room were certainly a part of that laughter. And perhaps unknown to Wade, one Council member’s reaction was not entirely as she described.
Also, no Council member, including Wade, Flannery, Keib, George, or Fellner, asked that the remark be removed from the record or asked the Council President Baldinger to reprimand Bodkins or otherwise deal with the situation after it occurred, and Baldinger himself took no action. Also, no one in the audience asked for the opportunity to speak about the incident before the meeting concluded.
Immediately after adjournment that evening, Councilman Bodkins spoke to the GalionLive reporter and expressed his strong regret at making the remark. In subsequent conversations with area media, he has expressed a willingness to resign if he is unsuccessful in apologizing to Dr. Ressallat.
A soundclip of the incident has been posted online and can be accessed by clicking here. Please note that GalionLive did not post the clip and did not create the description included on that site, and therefore comments on it may or may not reflect the views of this publication. We have nevertheless included a link to the clip as a service for our readers.