An embattled Maryland sheriff accused of making racist remarks, harassing employees and retaliating against those who refused to support his bid for re-election, agreed to resign from his position Tuesday amid mounting pressure from community members.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Howard County Sheriff James Fitzgerald signed an agreement Tuesday promising to resign within 30 days. His last day of work will be Saturday, Oct. 15, per County Executive Allan Kittleman.
“I think it’s a good thing for the citizens of Howard County,” Kittleman said. “I want to commend everyone in the community for standing up when they learned about the sheriff’s actions and his comments. I think it was because of our total community coming together … that led to this day.”
An investigation into several damning allegations made against Fitzgerald revealed that he had in fact used bigoted language toward fellow employees and blackballed others who stopped short of backing his re-election efforts. A lengthy report from the Howard County Office of Human rights, obtained by the Washington Post, accused the disgraced sheriff of:
- Yelling, “There’s no watermelon for you” at a Black person while at a buffet.
- Asking a Black deputy, in a snarky manner, “Are you getting the chicken special?” at a department dinner.
- Telling another employee that Black “deputies aren’t too smart, but they get the job done.”
- Using the N-word to refer to Black people.
- Making lewd comments about women’s breasts.
- Calling a former county executive “little Kenny Jew-boy.”
- Discriminating against former Lt. Charles M. Gable, who didn’t support his re-election.
According to Fusion, it was the last allegation that prompted the Office of Human Rights to launch an investigation. Despite the unflattering accusations made in the report, Fitzgerald remained adamant in his refusal to resign.
“I can say that the report was humbling, hurtful and disappointing for all involved,” the soon-to-be former sheriff said at a press conference Sept. 29. “It has caused me to reflect on what is important to my family, our community and the men and women, the deputies, that serve for the office of sheriff in Howard County.”
“I hope that you all will help me as I do the job I was elected to do,” Fitzgerald added. “I am grateful for your understanding, and I pray in the days and years to come that you will understand me, my heart and my commitment to Howard County.”
Per Maryland’s WBAL, the NAACP of Baltimore and several former Howard County executives were among those who protested outside the sheriff’s office over his decision to stay in office. Many called for his impeachment, but the Baltimore Sun points out that the position of sheriff is a state office. Essentially, legislators would have to find good reason to remove Fitzgerald from his post.
“I appreciate the call for impeachment; however, this can be a lengthy process,” said County Council chairperson Calvin 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.”
The officer who initially reported Fitzgerald’s “reign of terror,” Charles M. Gable, is expected to be re-instated at the sheriff’s department and receive up to $58,350 in back pay, the Baltimore Sun reports. Gable resigned in February during the OHR investigation into claims made against the embattled sheriff.
“[Gable] is pleased to have the matter resolved and is looking forward to returning to the sheriff’s office,” said his attorney, Joseph T. Mallon Jr. “He’s certainly pleased the community of Howard County has no tolerance for intolerance. He’s glad that he stood up to the sheriff.”
There’s still no word on who will replace Fitzgerald as Howard County Sheriff.