The Maryland democratic delegation issued a statement on Oct. 6 denouncing one of their own and calling for his resignation.
Howard County Sheriff James F. Fitzgerald
The letter, sent by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski and U.S. Representatives Elijah E. Cummings, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and John P. Sarbanes called for Howard County Sheriff James Fitzgerald to step down following accusations that he threatened employees and made derogatory comments about African Americans, women and Jews. A report from the Howard County Office of Human Rights claimed Fitzgerald created an atmosphere of intimidation and was reportedly a “poster child for bigotry, bullying, and temper tantrums.”
“We were appalled to see the report from the Howard County Office of Human Rights detailing how you have created a hostile and abusive work environment for the nearly 70-person department you oversee,” the letter stated in part. “As federal elected officials with responsibilities for the people of Howard County, we urge you to prioritize the needs of the residents of the county you serve, as well as the officers under your command, and resign your office.”
Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman asked Fitzgerald to resign in a letter on Sept. 20, citing the importance of maintaining the public’s trust in law enforcement personnel. Three former county executives joined Kittleman’s statement.
The county’s Office of Human Rights determined that a former sheriff’s lieutenant was “subjected to a severe and pervasive workplace environment” for not supporting Fitzgerald’s political re-election campaign.
“A hostile work environment alone is not the way we should have our sheriff’s department run,” Kittleman told the Baltimore Sun. “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 respect for all that we hold dear in Howard County that I see no other recourse.”
As an elected official, Fitzgerald cannot be fired, thus forcing state lawmakers to consider impeaching Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald took over as Sheriff of Howard County on Dec. 15, 2006 following victory in a preceding election. He currently manages 69 employees with a budget of nearly $8 million, in a job that pays him $91,000 per year. He has been re-elected twice; his current term ends in 2018.
Fitzgerald addressed the charges at a news conference to which only select press were invited and during which no questions were allowed. He called the accusations as “humbling, hurtful and disappointing.” Fitzgerald’s office did not respond to requests for comment.