A state contractor says it has fired one of its employees who was heard uttering a racial slur during a Vermont legislative committee hearing on Wednesday morning.
Steven Gayle, a senior director at the White River Junction research and analytics firm Resource Systems Group, which contracts with the Agency of Transportation, had been scheduled to testify about a study on direct-to-consumer vehicle sales.
Gayle popped up on screen during a 10-minute break in the Senate Transportation Committee's live streamed meeting and shortly after could be seen wringing his hands, gritting his teeth and whispering to himself, seemingly unaware his microphone was on.
"Don't believe this shit," he said at one point. "They'll say anything to get elected." He later said, "Yeah, we arrested every nigger," before repeating the slur again shortly after.
The meeting was reconvened a few minutes later and Gayle's comments were never addressed. But video of the incident later circulated among legislators, eventually rising to the attention of Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint (D-Windham), who issued a statement Thursday morning saying she was "deeply troubled" by it.
"My understanding is that all committee members and staff were away from their computers at the time and that no one became aware of the issue until much later," Balint wrote.
Gayle's LinkedIn profile describes him as a "national expert in metropolitan transportation planning" and says he joined Resource Systems Group in 2011. His bio is no longer on the firm's website.
In a statement to Seven Days on Thursday, the firm's CEO, Stephen Lawe, said Gayle was "terminated immediately" after the company learned about the incident.
The company is now seeking to implement "additional safeguards" to assure that its employees "are aligned properly with our company values and uphold them," Lawe said.
“On behalf of the entire company, I apologize to anyone affected by these deplorable remarks," Lawe said. "The outburst by an employee of RSG is both regrettable and unforgivable."
The pro tem said she was working with legislative staff to edit Gayle's comments out of the video but that she would retain an original copy "for the purpose of transparency and accountability."
"This language is abhorrent and will not be tolerated," she said. "The legislature must be a venue that welcomes and supports the participation of all, and language that traumatizes people of color cannot stand."