HOWARD COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — Howard County Sheriff James Fitzgerald has vowed to stay on the job amid a scathing report that exposed alleged racism and sexism.
“I want to apologize to you all to the atmosphere that has been created last week or sum, to the accusations that have been directed at me during my time as the sheriff,” said Fitzgerald during a press conference on Thursday.
The controversy follows the recent investigation by the Howard County Office of Human Rights–obtained by our media partner The Baltimore Sun–which accuses Fitzgerald of berating employees–making disparaging comments about African American deputies, derogatory remarks about women and an anti-Semitic comment about a former county executive.
Days after the report was exposed protesters and the county executive demanded his resignation.
“I don’t think there’s any other choice but to ask him to step down,” said Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman last week.
But on Thursday, Fitzgerald apologized for any hurt he caused by past statements and vowed to continue to serve the community: “My inspiration now is how can I better serve, how can I be a part of the solution for the challenges that face our community and more especially our county.”
Kittleman was one of the first to speak out, sending a letter to Fitzgerald, saying: “I urge you to resign. The allegations serve as a distraction to the day to day operations of the Sheriff’s Office…” and “have the capability of causing serious public mistrust.”
Kittleman said it’s crucial for Howard County residents to have confidence in their sheriff’s department–especially with the current climate nationwide and distrust of law enforcement.
In the wake of Fitzgerald’s decision not to step down, Kittleman has written a letter to leaders of the Howard County State Delegation seeking options for the impeachment of the sheriff.
In the letter Kittleman writes: “I recognize that impeachment of any elected official is an extreme step, one that should not be taken in haste. But the offensive actions and behavior documented in the OHR report are so grossly contrary to the shared values of inclusion and respected for all that we hold dear in Howard County that I see no other recourse.”
Kittleman isn’t the only one who’s appalled by the report.
Last week the Howard County Council issued a statement calling for the sheriff’s resignation:
“We are appalled and deeply disturbed by the findings of the investigation into the Howard County Sheriff’s Office by the Howard County Office of Human Rights. The report details truly unacceptable and intolerable behavior by Sheriff James Fitzgerald. These findings are especially upsetting at a time when we face a national crisis of confidence in law enforcement’s relationship with minority communities.
This investigation concludes that Sheriff Fitzgerald has, through his words and actions, created an environment in the Sheriff’s Office where racism, bigotry and intolerance are accepted and promoted. This behavior fails to honor our values of diversity and acceptance. These allegations come on the heels of the County Auditor’s report of fraudulent misappropriation of County funds by Sheriff Fitzgerald.
Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. In light of these findings and a pattern of inappropriate behavior, we believe that Mr. Fitzgerald no longer has the trust of the people to complete his term. We strongly condemn Sheriff Fitzgerald’s words and actions and call on him to resign immediately.”
On Thursday, Sheriff Fitzgerald would not comment on the specific allegations leveled against him, saying the case is still developing.
Fitzgerald has been sheriff since 2006 and was a former Howard County police detective.