BALTIMORE (WJZ)— Howard County Sheriff James Fitzgerald, who was under fire for alleged racism and sexism will resign this weekend.
Council Chairperson Calvin Ball addressed the resignation saying in a statement: “Responding to concerns about Sheriff Fitzgerald and allegations of discrimination, I have diligently worked with all parties to reach a resolution so that our community can begin healing. This wasn’t just one call or conversation or press release. This was a difficult process. I believed from the instant the issue came to light that resignation was the only option, and I needed the Sheriff to see that as well. After extensive negotiations, I am pleased to announce the attorneys for all parties have shared with me that a conciliation agreement in principle has been reached. The County’s Office of Law has advised that they anticipate a fully signed agreement by close of business today.”
The controversy surrounds a scathing report that calls him the “poster child for bigotry, bullying and temper tantrums.”
A 49-page investigation, obtained by The Baltimore Sun, says Sheriff Fitzgerald threatened employees using racist slurs, referred to the former county executive by an anti-Semitic name and told one African American deputy: “There’s no watermelon there for you.”
Days after the report was exposed protesters, the county executive and even the Governor Hogan 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 after the report was released.
Fitzgerald declined those requests and instead vowed to continue serving the community, apologizing for any hurt he caused by past statements : “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.”
In the wake of Fitzgerald’s decision not to step down, Kittleman wrote 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.”
Ball says the impeachment process is a lengthy one and he was able to engage in discussions with the sheriff.
“I appreciate the call for impeachment; however, this can be a lengthy process,” said Ball. “Therefore, I began engaging in discussions with Mr. Fitzgerald, following the release of the Human Rights report, to discuss the voluntary conciliatory process, as outlined in our Howard County Code. I spoke with him about the pain of our community and how we needed to turn the page on this chapter of prejudice. The intent of actions and words is irrelevant in the face of such a horrendous impact.”
Howard County officials say Fitzgerald’s last day in office will be this Saturday, October 15, 2016.
Prior to resignation, the sheriff will issue an order reinstating Mr. Gable–who was an apparent victim of discrimination by Fitzgerald—-to his prior position as Lieutenant at the Office of the Howard County Sheriff, effective Monday, October 17, 2016.
Fitzgerald will also pay $58,350, to Mr. Gable, representing back pay for the period of February 9, 2016 to October 15, 2016 and reflect an annual merit increase that would have been earned on July 1, 2016.
Fitzgerald has been sheriff since 2006 and was a former Howard County police detective.