Maryland sheriff resigning over sexist, racist comments

The embattled sheriff of Howard County has agreed to retire, as of this weekend.

ANNAPOLIS, MD. (AP) - A sheriff in Maryland has agreed to resign after an investigation found he created a hostile work environment by belittling staffers and making racist and sexist comments.

A 48-page-report by the Howard County Office of Human Rights found that Sheriff James Fitzgerald was "universally described as vindictive, arrogant, narcissistic, rude, belligerent, nasty and intimidating."

The report also found that Fitzgerald made derogatory racist, sexist and anti-Semitic comments about blacks, women and Jews.

County Council Chairman Calvin Ball announced Tuesday that Fitzgerald has agreed to leave office Saturday and retire within 30 days.

Tuesday, Councilman Calvin Ball released the following 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 terms for the conciliation include, but not limited to:

  • The Sheriff will immediately retire within 30 days;
  • The Sheriff's last day in the office will be Saturday, October 15, 2016;
  • Prior to resignation, the Sheriff will issue an order reinstating Mr. Gable to his prior position as Lieutenant at the Office of the Howard County Sheriff, effective Monday, October 17, 2016; and
  • Payment in the sum of $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.

I appreciate the call for impeachment; however, this can be a lengthy process. 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.

The ideals of diversity and inclusion that we promote in Howard County will never be fully realized if we avoid difficult conversations because they make us uncomfortable. Some hurtful things were said, things that I take quite personally as a black man with a beautiful black family.

I thank everyone across the County who stood up, believing as I do, that our community should be a model for celebrating our diversity and actions like this cannot stand unchecked. Howard County deserves better from its leaders. I hope we can see this moment as a beginning and not an end. We will have a new Sheriff and we will still have so many issues within and around our community. This episode should show us that we cannot simply assume we are and will be #1. We cannot rest on our laurels.

Elected officials, community leaders, and everyday citizens must be ready and willing to struggle to achieve more to engage our diversity and have the difficult conversations."

© 2017 Associated Press


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