'I did not make those comments'

March 28, 2007|by DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - A man whose brother was sentenced to 51 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to charges of making racist threats said Tuesday night that he recently overheard the city's only black councilwoman mutter that she loathes all white men in Hagerstown.

The councilwoman, Alesia Parson-McBean, denied the accusation immediately after Mike Shifler made it during a City Council meeting.

About 30 people were in the audience, including members of a local Girl Scout troop.

The Girl Scouts were ushered out of the meeting by their chaperones as Shifler spoke.

"I never once said I despise or loathe white men ... I did not make those comments," Parson-McBean said.

Shifler said he overheard Parson-McBean make the remark after she read a public statement March 16 at his brother's sentencing in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Jeffrey Shifler pleaded guilty in August 2006 to charges of making racist threats against Parson-McBean and black schoolchildren.


Before he made the threats, Shifler was a Hagerstown police officer for about 16 years.

He was fired in 2003 for falsifying payroll records, according to court records.

Mike Shifler said before he accused Parson-McBean of making the racist comment that neither he nor his brother is a racist.

The entire episode has devastated the Shifler family, he said.

"Jeff made a big mistake and fell flat on his face. ... I am attempting to apologize to this community for what has happened," he said.

Shifler said his brother was a devoted lawman and possibly snapped after being fired.

Hagerstown resident David Earley asked Parson-McBean during the meeting to apologize for another statement that she made publicly during Jeffrey Shifler's sentencing.

According to the Associated Press, that statement, in part, quoted Parson-McBean as saying, "I see this as one man's arrogance, which is not uncommon in Hagerstown, where white men believe they can do what they want and get away with it."

Late Tuesday afternoon, Parson-McBean denied making such a statement and said her remarks were taken out of context.

"I don't feel that way," she said.

Parson-McBean acknowledged that white men in Hagerstown felt they could get away with things before the "civil rights era."

"It was commonplace," she said.

Parson-McBean said she is working to help the city heal its racial tensions through Building Communities and other similar organizations.

Among other things, Building Communities helps educate people on issues that involve housing and illegal immigration, she said.

"They're doing great things," she said. "I'm glad to be a proud participant of Building Communities. ... It's about how to make Hagerstown the best place it can be."

Parson-McBean said her ordeal with Jeffrey Shifler has left her emotionally and physically drained.

"That period of my life - I'm glad it's over," she said.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, Councilman Martin Brubaker and Councilwomen Kelly S. Cromer and Penny M. Nigh declined to comment about the discussion that involved Parson-McBean.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner could not be reached for comment.

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