During a routine county commission administrative meeting, a Klamath County commissioner told county employees that “business in the U.S. should be conducted in English.”
During the July 27 meeting, Commissioner Donnie Boyd grew agitated when department heads for the county tax office and public health requested two bilingual employees be reclassified.
The tax office employee was reclassified from tax office clerk to a bilingual tax office clerk, and the public health employee was changed from part-time to full-time.
“Are we getting mandated by the government that we have to have bilingual speakers, or is it just, you think, it’s a service?” Boyd asked the room.
“It’s a service, for Jennifer’s department especially,” another county employee could be heard saying in the video.
“Yeah, we need it,” replied Jennifer Little, director of Klamath County Public Health.
“I didn’t say we didn’t,” Boyd said. “I just asked a question, because there are two on here for bilingual people, two different departments.”
Kelley Minty Morris, chair of the Klamath County Commission, asked the room if there were any questions comments or concerns.
“I’ve got all kinds of comments but I think I’ll keep my mouth shut,” Boyd responded. “The reality, we’re in the United States of America … the language here is English. We should be speaking English to do business in the United States.”
When questioned by the Herald and News on Wednesday, Boyd declined to elaborate on his statements in the meeting.
“I stand by my comments and people need to learn to mind their own business,” he said.
Commissioner Derrick DeGroot was not in the room during the discussion and has not spoken to Boyd about his comments.
DeGroot said that he is “the son of an immigrant, and when my father came to this country he didn’t speak a word of English. He has had a very blessed life and has been able to provide me with the same.”
DeGroot’s father was born in Indonesia.
“When I make decisions in my position I think of others who come to this country with similar hurdles, and if I can make things easier for them when they come to this country, by having employees and staff that can help them communicate better, that is something I take pride in,” DeGroot said. “I can only imagine if that service were provided to my family or been available in the ‘60s when my family immigrated to this country, how much more successful could they have been?”
“Those words don’t reflect how the county operates,” Minty Morris said on Thursday. “We strive to meet people where they are at, respectfully delivering high quality service to each person in our community.”
— Reporter Joe Siess can be reached at (541) 885-4481 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jomsiess