BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Embattled Howard County Sheriff James Fitzgerald is officially out of a job. The sheriff is forced to step down after allegations of racism and harassment started surfacing.
Saturday marked Fitzgerald’s last day in office; a date that many local and state leaders tell WJZ couldn’t come soon enough after these allegations were made public, and those same people say the next step is healing.
County and local leaders say this was never a political issue, as both sides agreed the sheriff needed to step down.
“I was very disturbed and troubled when I read it,” said County Executive Allan Kittleman
The tension mounting following the release of a report from the county’s Office of Human Rights, where one employee called Fitzgerald “the poster child for bigotry, bullying, and temper-tantrums.”
A closer look at the report revealed claims of racial slurs, sexist jokes, retaliatory firings, and harassment.
“I can say that the report was humbling, hurtful, and disappointing to all involved,” said Fitzgerald in a statement the media.
At the time the sheriff said he would not step down, but that changed a day later announcing he would retire.
“I think it was a very difficult decision that he made but I think through our conversations he recognized that this is what was best for our community,” said County Council Chair, Calvin Ball.
Part of the deal struck also called for the Sheriff’s Office to reinstate the deputy who filed the initial complaint, and he receive back pay.
“The person who really made a difference here was Lieutenant Gable, the individual who was willing to stand up and be coreagous and say this wrong, and filed the complaint,” said County Executive Kittleman.
While it’s the Governor who get final say, some names are already being thrown into consideration as to who will be the next Howard County sheriff.
Some calling on a leader who will not only rebuild the department, but trust within in the community.
“The governor would do well to appoint someone who could clean house, clean up the atmosphere, someone with experience, someone who know the county,” said Howard County resident, Larry Walker.
US Senator Ben Cardin also weighing in, telling WJZ in a statement the sheriff did the right thing for the county by stepping down.