David Corliss Investigation Report ( .PDF )
An independent investigation was inconclusive on whether City Manager David Corliss uttered the phrase “spear-chucker” during a staff meeting, but the investigator found no evidence that Corliss was trying to make a racial slur.
Mayor Mike Amyx released the report Wednesday afternoon and said city commissioners had determined to not reprimand Corliss since there was no evidence that his remarks were racially motivated. City commissioners met about the matter Tuesday evening in executive session.
“The City Commission has found no basis for further action,” Amyx said.
The report by former Kansas University Law School dean Stephen McAllister found that five people in a June 10 staff meeting were certain that Corliss used the phrase “spear-chucker,” which is a negative term for black people.
But McAllister said four other people in the meeting did not recall Corliss using the phrase.
None of the nine people in the meeting, though, believes that Corliss was trying to make a racial reference during the meeting.
“No one I interviewed claimed to believe or even asserted that they thought the city manager used the term ‘spear-chucker’ with the intent to make a racial slur or in a racially derogatory fashion,” McAllister wrote in the report. “Even those who brought the matter to the mayor’s attention indicated that they did not believe the city manager used the term with any racial intent.”
The leaders of the city’s firefighter and police unions alerted the mayor to the comment and asked for an investigation. Their concerns came as the city was negotiating new employment contracts with the unions. But union officials have said the tough negotiations did not have any impact on their decision to ask for an investigation.
Mike McMillen, head of the fire union, said he brought the issue to the mayor’s attention because he believed city employees had a responsibility to report such language.
Both McMillen and Mike McAtee, head of the police union, said they accepted the City Commission’s findings.
An estimate on how much the investigation cost was not available because the city has not yet received McAllister’s bill.
Other findings from the report included:
• No one present in the June 10 meeting recalled any reaction to Corliss’ use of the phrase “spear-chucker.” A majority of the nine people at the meeting later said they were not aware the phrase had a racially derogatory meaning.
• McAllister determined that it would “make little sense” for Corliss to use the phrase as a racial slur given the context of the meeting. The meeting was about health care benefits. The five who remember Corliss uttering the phrase agreed it was said in the context of making an unpopular decision about health benefits. McAllister reported individuals remembered Corliss saying something similar to: “Let the spear-chuckers chuck their spears at me. I’m ready to catch them.”
McAllister said the remark didn’t make sense in a racial context because no one in the meeting was black, and none of the city employee groups is predominantly black. The city’s work force is about 4.75 percent black.
Corliss had little to say on the findings Wednesday.
“I appreciate the City Commission’s support,” Corliss said.
Corliss previously said he did not recall whether he used the phrase during the meeting. He said he was sure he did not use the phrase to describe the racial makeup of a group of people.