The former Chesterfield Township committeeman who ignited a controversy after making racially offensive remarks about Indian American voters in a Facebook post said Thursday night that he would make a public apology.
Sam Davis made that announcement after learning that Township Committeeman Shreekant Dhopte, who defeated him in November, had rejected the emailed apology Davis sent him late Wednesday. Davis, a Republican, said he would publicly apologize to the community at the next township committee meeting, next Thursday.
Dhopte, a Democrat, who won the election by 117 votes, said Thursday that Davis’ emailed apology was impersonal and that he "needs to do better. ... He needs to come out and apologize to everyone in the community.”
In his email to Dhopte, Davis wrote: “I apologize for the words I spoke. I must say the manner was not very respectful. ... I truly like you Shree and respect you."
Davis also invited to buy Dhopte dinner on Friday night. Dhopte said he would ignore the message and the invitation.
In a Facebook post last week, Davis said he lost his bid for reelection to a seat on the committee because “all the Indians” in the township voted for Dhopte and are not U.S. citizens.
Davis, a retired Trenton High School teacher who portrays Gen. George Washington at historic events, said he filed a complaint with the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office and said the illegal voters should be given $15,000 fines.
Dhopte, 45, is an IT manager with Johnson & Johnson.
Also Wednesday night, Sean Earlen, chairman of the Burlington County Republican Committee, left Dhopte a voicemail condemning Davis’ remarks on behalf of the party, Dhopte said. Earlier in the week, when Dhopte asked the GOP to denounce Davis’s comments, Earlen did not respond.
When Dhopte returned Earlen’s call on Thursday, he said, the GOP chairman told him, “I apologize for whatever that man said.”
Dhopte said he told Earlen he wanted an apology for the township, not himself. Earlen then promised he would issue a statement to be read at a public forum on racism and intolerance that Dhopte is hosting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Crosswicks Friends Meeting House.
Dhopte said Earlen told him he could not attend the public forum but he would ask Committeeman Jeremy Liedtka, a Republican, to read it. The Democrats have a majority on the five-member committee.
Earlen could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The controversy began when Davis, 64, joined a thread on a Facebook post about neighboring Bordentown, where a cafe owner posted the image of a bill signed by an unknown patron who wrote that he doesn’t tip immigrants. Davis joined the conversation and said he had lost the November election to “an Indian guy."
In an interview earlier this week, Davis said he knew the Indians in the town of 8,000 had voted illegally because "you just kind of know; well, you know, well, I’m just assuming you know.” Asked to elaborate, he hung up.
The township has about 4,000 registered voters, including about 300 Indian Americans, Dhopte said. The vote was 1,174 for Dhopte, 1,057 for Davis, and 211 for Jignesh Shah, a school board member who ran as an independent, according to the county Board of Elections.
Dhopte said he was holding a “community unity meeting” to have an open dialogue "to let people dissolve their anger and frustration. That’s the hope, to give closure to this issue.”
After learning that Davis had pledged to publicly apologize, Dhopte said that would be welcome. “The Indian community is forgiving, and believes in giving second chances to people who demonstrate remorse,” he said.