Council hearing, meetings with Joel Fitzgerald postponed due to emergency operation for his son

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Mayor Catherine Pugh announced today that a series of public meetings and one of two upcoming hearings for Baltimore police commissioner nominee Joel Fitzgerald are postponed “due to an unexpected medical emergency having to do with his son which requires immediate surgery.”

Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said in a statement that the emergency surgery is for Fitzgerald’s 12-year-old son.

“Members of the Baltimore City Council would like to extend their thoughts and prayers to the family of Dr. Joel Fitzgerald,” he wrote, later adding: “Members of the City Council are praying for a speedy recovery for Mr. Fitzgerald’s son.”

The Baltimore City Council had scheduled two hearings on Fitzgerald’s nomination—one on Jan. 5, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., at which the public would be allowed to testify before the Executive Appointments Committee without Fitzgerald present, and a second on Jan. 7 at 5 p.m., at which the the committee would question Fitzgerald. Additional meet-and-greets had been scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 6, in Park Heights and at Morgan State University.

The first hearing for this Saturday at 10 a.m. is still happening, Young said. “That day is reserved for members of the public to share their thoughts directly with the City Council. We want to hear from you in advance of our vote on the nominee.”

Fitzgerald will not be attending.

Young said the second hearing on Monday at 5 p.m. “is likely to be rescheduled,” and the meet-and-greets have been postponed.

“At the earliest opportunity, we will communicate a revised schedule based on Chief Fitzgerald’s availability and the ability to accommodate the schedules of other key stakeholders,” an advisory from Pugh’s office said.

Sgt. Christopher Britt, spokesman for the Fort Worth Police Department, where Fitzgerald has served as police chief since 2015, said in an email late Thursday that “any events taking place with his family are personal and we will not be discussing them.” Britt said Fitzgerald is still employed by FWPD.

Council members have been busily vetting Fitzerald and preparing to question the police commissioner-designate, whom Pugh tapped as her pick in November. Four members, including Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, traveled to Texas to speak with police, elected officials, clergy, activists and other stakeholders there to learn about his time leading the Fort Worth department.

Fitzgerald has visited Baltimore once since he was nominated, meeting with council members and giving a press conference just as he had controversially declined to release his resume, via City Solicitor Andre Davis. City Council members wound up releasing his full resume packet anyway.

On New Year’s Day, they also released more than 200 pages of interview transcripts from their visit to the Texas city. The documents offered conflicting portraits of Fitzgerald, with some officials and community leaders celebrating him for reforms and his focus on community policing, and some pastors and activists arguing they’re still dealing with biased policing.

This story has been updated.

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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in CityLab, Slate, Baltimore City Paper, DCist and elsewhere.
Ethan McLeod
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