PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A northern Maine town manager who espoused white separatist views was fired on Tuesday and is getting $30,000 for agreeing not to sue the town.
The selectmen in the rural town of Jackman announced the decision after a closed-door executive session with Tom Kawczynski, the town’s top administrator since June.
Kawczynski has made comments bashing Islam and called for the preservation of white European heritage in northern New England. He also operates a website that touts racial segregation, describes itself as the internet home of a pro-white group and states that it’s time to “admit America was built by white Christian men.”
Kawczynski told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he’s unabashedly pro-white, but he feels his views have been mischaracterized. He vowed to continue making the case for what he called “white civil rights.”
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“I, in conjunction with the Selectboard, agreed to a settlement to remove the good people of Jackman from the unwanted scrutiny, but I do not surrender my right to express my First Amendment rights,” Kawczynski said. “Including the right to have controversial opinions.”
Social media users have been calling for Kawczynski to quit or be fired. A post on the Jackman-Moose River Region Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page stated that its members don’t share his views and called on the selectmen “to do what is needed.”
Kawczynski was paid $49,000 annually, and the town said he is getting $30,000 in severance. He said he signed an agreement to the severance package stipulating that he will not sue.
Elected officials in the town voted unanimously to fire him on Tuesday morning. The town said in a statement that its selectmen and Kawczynski have “agreed on the details of ending” his employment.
Kawczynski served as town chair in Lisbon, New Hampshire, for President Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign. He told the AP on Tuesday that he had no official role in the campaign, but was a proud supporter of the Republican president because of his pledge to “take care of the American people first.”
Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, said the organization is aware of the New Albion group promoted by Kawczynski, his group and his website. Kawczynski said the group has about 100 members and holds regular meetings in Maine and New Hampshire. Beirich said he should have stepped down before having to be fired.
“It’s unacceptable to see people in leadership positions espousing white nationalist views,” Beirich said.
Located along a stretch of road Mainers sometimes call “Moose Alley,” Jackman is a town of less than 900 people, nearly all of them white , near northwestern Maine’s border with Quebec, about 170 miles (275 kilometers) north of Portland. On its website , the town describes itself as a “tourist friendly region,” and some residents have said they feared the controversy over Kawczynski’s views could keep people away.
The town’s statement said elected officials intend to “move forward to do what is necessary to sustain a vibrant, welcoming tourist community such as Jackman.”
Associated Press writer David Sharp contributed to this report from Portland, Maine.