BELLOWS FALLS -- The municipal manager read a "recommended statement" Tuesday to respond to criticism over what he described as a slip of the tongue last week.

Willis D. "Chip" Stearns II began Tuesday's meeting of the Rockingham Selectboard by apologizing for saying he hoped a K9 unit the Bellows Falls Police Department may soon develop would make "a lot of Latinos leave." He later said he meant to refer to a nationwide street gang known as the Latin Kings, which he believes is in the area and has "tagged" Rockingham Town Hall.

"I have stated there was no intent in any way, shape or form to create a racist statement, profile or slur. What I said was offensive. I apologize and ask for forgiveness," he said. "I want to thank those standing in support of my character."

Stearns said what he read was a recommended statement provided to him and that anyone who knows him "would clearly know these would have not been my words." Stearns would not reveal who penned the statement.

He said social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, where some unfavorable words have been written about him, are not part of his lifestyle and what may appear as a lack of response is merely the fact that he does not make time for social media. He said he will continue to do any job necessary to ensure Bellows Falls and Rockingham remain vibrant and safe places to live.

"I continue to be available to anyone -- anyone -- wishing for some of my time," Stearns said.

Rockingham Selectboard Chairman Tom MacPhee took a moment to tell Stearns he has the support of the entire board and he has been told the Bellows Falls Village Board of Trustees back the municipal manager as well.

"You need to know that," MacPhee told Stearns. "And as far as we're concerned, this is old news at this point and let's move on."

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.