Howard Co. sheriff resigning after accusations of racist, sexist comments

WASHINGTON — Howard County Sheriff James Fitzgerald is resigning from the position following reports that he made racist and sexist comments.

Howard County Council Chairperson Calvin Ball and Fitzgerald will sign an agreement Tuesday that says the sheriff’s last day in office will be Oct. 15 and he will retire within 30 days.

The resignation comes a day after Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman directed the county’s law office to explore “any and all legal means” to remove Fitzgerald from the position. On Tuesday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan joined the list of Maryland leaders who said he believed Fitzgerald should resign.

Howard County Office of Human Rights released a report substantiating claims Fitzgerald created a hostile work environment by making derogatory comments about African-Americans, women and Jews.

“When I hear language and actions like that, to me, no leader can be effective and serve in a role particularly as it relates to law enforcement,” Ball said to WTOP.

“Any time that we hear such offensive and unacceptable commentary, it’s something that is surprising and a shock to our system and our values, but I think frankly that just reminds us of how much work we have to do.”

The Office of Human Rights report was a result of an investigation of complaints by former Lt. Charles Gable, who resigned in February after more than 17 years on the job. As part of Fitzgerald’s resignation, Gable will be reinstated to his prior position as lieutenant starting Oct. 17 and will receive back pay totaling more than $58,000.

Hogan will be replacing the sheriff, Kittleman said.

“Hopefully we’ll be working with him to make sure it’s somebody who can bring trust back to our sheriff’s department to ensure that the people who work for the sheriff’s department are treated properly and respectfully as well as the citizens of Howard County,” Kittleman said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Last week, Kittleman urged members of the county’s delegation to the General Assembly to explore options to impeach the sheriff.

Ball said the road to impeachment can be a long one, so he discussed with Fitzgerald the prospect of stepping down.

“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,” Ball said in a news release Tuesday.

Ball, who is black, said this is a teaching moment for the community’s youth, including his two daughters — 10 and 13.

“They recognize that there is still prejudice and that we still have work to do, but they also are very inclusive and recognize that they can be part of the solution.”

WTOP’s Kate Ryan, Dick Uliano and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Sarah Beth Hensley

Sarah Beth Hensley is the Digital News Director at WTOP. She has worked several different roles since she began with WTOP in 2013 and has contributed to award-winning stories and coverage on the website.

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