Ohio official uses racial slur to oppose Juneteenth holiday for firefighters

A Pickaway County official wanted to deny Juneteenth, a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery, from being a holiday awarded firefighters in their new contract.

And during a Nov. 17 public meeting that was being recorded, Scioto Township Trustee Barton Fannin used a racist slur to describe the holiday.

"I did not realize that that was a frickin' federal holiday," Fannin says. Asked by another trustee "You know what it means though, right?"

Frannin responded by using the slur to describe the holiday, prompting someone else to yell "Whoa!" followed by apparent nervous laughter.

After Trustee John Maynard provided a brief description of Juneteenth, Fannin asks Terry Brill, township fiscal officer, about the recording: "You can shut that off," Fannin says. "Have you shut it off?"

"Not yet," says Brill, followed by more laughter and unintelligible dialog.

"You might want to rewind it a little bit," says Fannin, before the conversation moves to paying township bills.

The day after Thanksgiving, the trustees met to place the former township fire station up for auction following passage of a 2019 fire levy and new station. They also briefly discussed Fannin's offensive comments. Brill said that he had regrets and that an apology would be included in the minutes of the Nov. 30 trustees meeting.

According to unofficial minutes from the Nov. 24 meeting, Maynard said that "these comments were very racist in nature, and he felt that Fannin should resign from the Scioto Township Board of Trustees. Fannin told the other board members that he would not resign, but his comments were not directed at anyone, and he will apologize to anyone that he needs to."

Following backlash, trustees in the community of about 12,000 that also includes Pickaway Correctional Institution with about 2,000 inmates, plan to discuss punishment for Fannin, who is two years into his first term.

Said Brill of the incident: "I don't think he was trying to be offensive. But if you make that statement, it's always offensive."

Brill said that Fannin, a farmer, explained that his upbringing led him to believe that such language was normal.

"He said 'It's something I grew up around,' " said Brill.

Brill said he has reminded people that "When you step into the (public official) job you are required to make certain concessions. You're representing everyone."

dnarciso@dispatch.com

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Ohio official uses racial slur over Juneteenth