Howard County Leaders Urge Sheriff to Resign, Citing Discrimination Investigation

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Courtesy Howard County Sheriff's Office/Facebook
Courtesy Howard County Sheriff’s Office/Facebook

By Ethan McLeod and Robert O’Brien

Howard County’s council, state delegates and former leaders are piling onto a call made by their executive for Sheriff John Fitzgerald to resign.

The county’s Office of Human Rights wrote in an investigative report that Fitzgerald, a third-term elected sheriff, allegedly berated and harassed a black former lieutenant by creating a hostile work environment, WBAL-TV reports.

He is also alleged to have screamed and cursed at other members of his department and made derogatory remarks about women and Jews, as well as African-Americans.

“The African-American deputies are not too smart, but they get the job done,” he said at one point, according to the report.

“Everyone has treated me with dignity and respect except for Sheriff James F. Fitzgerald” during his 42-year career, the lieutenant told investigators. “He has become the poster child for bullying, bigotry and temper tantrums. The venom that spews from this man’s mouth is abhorrent.”

The 47-page report, complete with colorful and offensive language, can be read here.

In a letter on Wednesday, County Executive Kittleman urged Fitzgerald to resign to avoid “causing serious public mistrust of our sworn public safety officers.” Kittleman then released a joint statement with former Howard County executives Ken Ulman, James N. Robey, and Edward L. Cochran calling for Fitzgerald’s resignation and asserting that his alleged statements “run counter” to Howard County’s values.

Adding additional pressure, nearly a dozen state delegates, the entire Howard County Council and the state Register of Wills joined in hours later with the same request. Their statement echoed Kittleman’s concerns about public trust in sworn officers, citing the “national crisis of confidence in law enforcement’s relationship with minority communities.”

Fitzgerald, meanwhile, has denied any wrongdoing aired in the report. The Maryland Attorney General’s Office, which officially represents the sheriff, said he disagrees with the Human Rights Office’s findings, The Sun reports.

As an independent elected position, the sheriff cannot be forcibly removed from his post without first being convicted of a crime. It’s up to Fitzgerald whether he stays or goes. So far, he’s been silent on the report.

 

Ethan McLeod
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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 Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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