WASHINGTON (AP) — Shirley Sherrod, the Agriculture Department official ousted during a racial firestorm last month, declined Tuesday to accept an offer to return full-time to the agency.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that Sherrod did agree to work with the agency in a consulting capacity in the future to help it improve its civil rights performance. She told reporters she did not think she could say yes to a job “at this point, with all that has happened.” There had been indications that Vilsack, who apologized to Sherwood for pushing her out, had offered her a position in the Office of Advocacy and Outreach, which works in the civil rights area.

“It is a new position,” she said. “I look at what happened now. I know he has apologized and I accept that. A new process is in place and I hope that it works. … 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.

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Vilsack said that “Shirley has unique opportunities here.”

Vilsack said he had tried in vain to get Sherwood to return to the department.

The veteran department employee 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.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.