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After Wolfeboro, towns need exit strategies

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The barrage of criticism directed at Robert Copeland, an 82-year-old police commissioner in Wolfeboro, N.H., who finally resigned Monday days after he refused to apologize for using the n-word to describe President Obama, is obviously justified. But a single bigoted official isn’t Wolfeboro’s only problem. Town leaders widely condemned Copeland, and begged him to step down to spare the town further embarrassment — but they had no way to force him out. That’s crazy. Municipalities should learn from Wolfeboro’s experience, and ensure that their local rules provide a mechanism to remove officials who become incapacitated or otherwise disqualified for their posts.

The preference of voters — Copeland had won his election unopposed in March — does deserve a lot of deference, but even the president can be removed under certain circumstances. Copeland’s words, and his refusal to apologize for them, certainly would have merited removal from a position like police commissioner. His resignation puts an end to the saga, but should wake up Wolfeboro and other towns to the need for an emergency-use-only check on officials.

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