WASHINGTON — Shirley Sherrod, the Agriculture Department official ousted during a racial firestorm last month, declined Tuesday to return to the agency, though she said it was tempting.
Sherrod and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that she may work with the agency in a consulting capacity in the future to help it improve its outreach to minorities. She told reporters she did not think she could say yes to a job "at this point, with all that has happened."
"I look forward to some type of relationship with the department in the future," she said. "We do need to work on the issues of discrimination and race in this country."
Vilsack, who apologized to Sherrod for pushing her out, had offered her a position in the Office of Advocacy and Outreach, which works in the civil rights area.
"I think I can be helpful to him and the department if I just take a little break and look at how I can be more helpful in the future," Sherrod said.
Vilsack said that "Shirley has unique opportunities here."
Vilsack said he had worked hard to get Sherrod to return.
She was forced out earlier this year when an excerpt of a speech she gave several years ago was posted by a conservative blogger on the Internet, remarks that seemed to show Sherwood giving shortshrift attention as a local agriculture to a poor white farmer's plea for financial assistance.
The incident proved embarrassing for the Obama administration.