Under pressure from county leaders, state and federal legislators and even the governor himself, James Fitzgerald has agreed to resign from his position as Howard County’s sheriff by the end of the week.
County Council Chairman Calvin Ball told the Sun Fitzgerald will agree on paper to serve his final day in his elected position this Saturday, Oct. 15.
A report by the county’s Office of Human Rights from September found the third-term sheriff allegedly created a hostile work environment in his department. Specifically, it said he targeted African-Americans, Jews and women and retaliated against a former department member, Lt. Charles Gable, who did not support his re-election bid. Gable resigned during the county’s investigation.
As an example of the sheriff’s alleged bigotry, he was quoted in the report as saying, “The African-American deputies are not too smart, but they get the job done.”
Fitzgerald issued something of an apology late last month, but said he would not be stepping down.
Yesterday, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman publicly lamented that impeaching Fitzgerald would take too long. Kittleman said he would ask the county’s legal office to instead explore ways to remove him through the court system.
Since then, the county’s lawyers appears to have successfully negotiated Fitzgerald’s departure with his attorneys. In a Tuesday Facebook post, Council Chairman Calvin Ball wrote that he had “diligently worked with all parties to reach a resolution so that our community can begin healing.” He also wrote that he had spoken with the sheriff “about the pain of our community and how we needed to turn the page on this chapter of prejudice.”
Fitzgerald agreed that he would step down at the end of this week. As part of the agreement, he must also reinstate Gable as lieutenant within the sheriff’s department before he leaves. Gable will receive backpay for the last eight months, according to Ball.
Those who gathered in Howard County to protest for Fitzgerald’s resignation during the last several weeks are likely pleased with the announcement. Governor Hogan, who joined in on asking the sheriff to resign on Tuesday morning, has been tasked with replacing the sheriff, per state law.
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