Republican U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse on Friday called on Pat McPherson to resign from the Nebraska State Board of Education.
Sasse’s comments ratchet up political pressure on McPherson, the Republican under siege for bigoted postings on his blog.
Although McPherson has been defiant in the face of political and public pressure, such pressure appears to be the most viable option for critics who want him out.
State board members can’t be recalled, and impeachment is reserved for more severe breaches of public trust.
Sasse said people must know the board “is being piloted by folks who just wake up every morning thinking about nothing more than equal opportunity for everybody, that in Nebraska you’re going to have an opportunity to realize your dreams regardless of what color you are.
“Right now, it’s hard for me to see how that board can operate effectively.”
McPherson has disavowed the description of President Barack Obama as a “half breed” that appeared on his blog, the Objective Conservative. He said he did not author the five postings containing the term, which dated back to 2011. He blamed them on a contributor whom he had allowed to access the site; he declined to name the contributor.
Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts called for his resignation Thursday, but two hours later McPherson issued a statement that he did not intend to resign.
Meantime, the two processes that the public typically employ to oust unpopular or misbehaving politicians appear off the table.
Impeachment typically involves malfeasance in office, criminal conduct or violation of the public trust, said Dave Domina, a Democrat who served as prosecutor in the 2006 impeachment trial of University of Nebraska regent David Hergert.
In the 1980s, Domina was appointed special attorney general to investigate the collapse of Commonwealth Savings Co. of Lincoln. That case led to the impeachment of then-Attorney General Paul Douglas, who was acquitted by the Nebraska Supreme Court.
“I don’t think stupidity is an impeachable offense,” Domina said Friday. “I don’t think bigotry is an impeachable offense. I think that the way officials who exhibit those behaviors are removed from office is by the ballot box and by public pressure making it clear that they can’t continue in office.”
Nebraska law authorizes recalling elected officials of various governing bodies, including school board members, and also elected officials of political subdivisions. The state board of education is neither a political subdivision nor is it specifically listed as subject to recall.
McPherson, in his written statement Thursday, said he would be giving no further statements or interviews.
In that statement, he said had not violated any statute or constitutional provision or any of the rules or regulations that pertain to his duties as a member of the board.
He said resigning would be “a tacit admission of the false accusations being made that I am a racist.”
McPherson said: “I eagerly await the opportunity to work with my fellow board members as well as with Governor Ricketts in improving education for all Nebraska children. I will work earnestly to support the needs of parents and teachers as well. We have lots of challenges and work to do.”
His presence to the board will be, at the very least, an awkward situation.
Three of the eight board members indicated he should resign, a fourth saying McPherson’s resignation would help the board move forward.
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