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Friday, February 2, 2007

The Doctor Is Out

Posted By on Fri, Feb 2, 2007 at 3:42 PM

You want funny? "I'm a one-eyed Jewish nigger." Now that's funny!
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported this morning that Dr. William Kincaid, director of the city's Department of Health, resigned yesterday "amid allegations that he used a racial slur at a staff meeting." Kincaid had come out of retirement in late 2005 to take the $140,000-a-year post, which he'd previously occupied from 1989 to 1995.

According to the Post story, co-bylined by Jake Wagman and Tina Hesman Saey:

"Several sources say that Kincaid, 60, was attempting to make a joke at a recent staff meeting -- apparently about the soft drink Kool-Aid -- when he used a derogatory term to describe African-Americans.

"Kincaid's resignation was effective immediately...."

So what'd the doc say?

(Kincaid didn't respond when the Post attempted to reach him at home. Mayor Francis Slay, who oversees the Health Department, issued a statement announcing Kincaid's resignation and the appointment of Pamela Rice Walker, who heads the department's communicable disease division, as interim director. The mayor's office had no further comment on what it called a confidential personnel matter.)

According to 27th Ward Alderman Gregory Carter, Kincaid walked into a staff meeting about a month ago and said:

"I've got a joke for you: You know the people who drink Kool-Aid? Niggers and poor white folks."

"From what I'm gathering from the people who were at the meeting, it came out of nowhere," Carter says.

Forgive Carter the understatement. But it would appear to be a measure of just how far St. Louis has to go as a city, that we would have as our health czar a dude who 1) utters the most toxic epithet in the St. Louis lexicon and 2) seems to believe that -- appalling taste aside -- what he's relating qualifies as a "joke." Let's just stipulate that he's no Sammy Davis Jr. (Wonder who Slay will tap next for the job. Is Admiral Stockdale available?)

Carter says he first heard about the alleged incident from constituents but quickly learned that many of his fellow aldermen had also fielded complaints. As chair of the aldermanic Health and Human Services Committee, Carter brought the matter to the office of Mayor Slay.

Carter remains galled that the city's initial response was to hand Kincaid a one-week suspension. "If you think about it, the Health Department -- they serve poor people. He cracked a joke on a good 90 percent of the people he is supposed to serve," Carter says.

"I don't think the mayor knew the action his staff took," Carter adds, noting that when he made it plain that the aldermen weren't satisfied with the punishment, Slay demanded Kincaid's resignation.

Carter, who as chair of Health and Human Services had dealings with Kincaid, hadn't been much impressed by since the doctor took the job a little more than a year ago. "In the City of St. Louis infant mortality had increased, HIV/AIDS had increased, cardiovascular disease had increased. I didn't see any plans to move our city forward quickly enough," Carter says.

"I'm just glad this is behind us," the alderman says of the Kincaid imbroglio, though from what he says next it's obvious that he knows full well it isn't.

"It's very unfortunate that this would happen, Carter continues. "This city will not ever become the great city that it can be -- all the new construction in the world doesn't mean anything until we address the racial tensions that hover above our city. We've got some good citizens. But then we've got individuals that bring up these crazy things."

[For the RFT's story about Kincaid's predecessor, Dr. Hugh Stallworth, who resigned in 2004, go here.]

-Tom Finkel

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