ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) -- The Howard County sheriff is being called on to resign after allegations that he made disparaging remarks to employees, along with ethnic and racial slurs.
After serving for more than ten years, Sheriff James Fitzgerald could be approaching his final days on the job.
The controversy follows the recent investigation by the Howard County Office of Human Rights--obtained by our media partner The Baltimore Sun--which accuses Fitzgerald of berating employees--making disparaging comments about African American deputies, derogatory remarks about women and an anti-Semitic comment about a former county executive.
"I don't think there's any other choice but to ask him to step down," said Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman.
Kittleman was one of the first to speak out, sending a letter to Fitzgerald, saying: "I urge you to resign ... The allegations serve as a distraction to the day to day operations of the Sheriff's Office..." and "have the capability of causing serious public mistrust."
"Certainly, his racial insensitivity, his sexual comments are very disturbing, just the lack of respect," said Kittleman.
Kittleman says it's crucial for Howard County residents to have confidence in their sheriff's department--especially with the current climate nationwide and distrust of law enforcement.
Several elected leaders from Howard County are now chiming in as well, including Councilman Calvin Ball, who says the actions described are deplorable and unacceptable.
But in the end, Kittleman says it's up to Fitzgerald to decide whether or not he will step away.
"To have a sheriff who shows disrespect and insensitivity, it's just not going to be tolerated in Howard County," Kittleman said.
The Howard County Council issued a statement Thursday night, calling for the sheriff's resignation:
"We are appalled and deeply disturbed by the findings of the investigation into the Howard County Sheriff's Office by the Howard County Office of Human Rights. The report details truly unacceptable and intolerable behavior by Sheriff James Fitzgerald. These findings are especially upsetting at a time when we face a national crisis of confidence in law enforcement's relationship with minority communities.
This investigation concludes that Sheriff Fitzgerald has, through his words and actions, created an environment in the Sheriff's Office where racism, bigotry and intolerance are accepted and promoted. This behavior fails to honor our values of diversity and acceptance. These allegations come on the heels of the County Auditor's report of fraudulent misappropriation of County funds by Sheriff Fitzgerald.
Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. In light of these findings and a pattern of inappropriate behavior, we believe that Mr. Fitzgerald no longer has the trust of the people to complete his term. We strongly condemn Sheriff Fitzgerald's words and actions and call on him to resign immediately."
David Steele with the Howard County NAACP had this to say about Fitzgerald:
"The recent Office of Human Rights report ... provides very disturbing allegations against you as the head of the Office of Sheriff Department in Howard County are completely unacceptable. Allegations of racial bias, bullying, fostering an environment of prejudice and intimidation is unfathomable. The office of Sheriff is held in high esteem and the citizens of Howard County deserve a Sheriff Department that reflects an environment of inclusion and professionalism. The Office of Human Rights report clearly indicates that you have not met that standard. I must then on behalf of the Howard County Branch of the NAACP ask that you resign immediately to protect the integrity of the department.
I am also deeply disturbed that it has taken this long for these allegations to be made public. I must commend the brave individual who initiated the complaint and the thoroughness of the Office of Human Rights to pursue the facts. I am concerned as well with the findings in the report that other senior leaders in the department condoned a negative environment. I am prepared to ask Governor Hogan to initiate an investigation of the entire department to determine if there is a culture of institutional bias.
It is in the best interest of the citizens of Howard County that the level of trust and professionalism from our Sheriff Department be upheld. I hope that you submit your resignation immediately."
Fitzgerald has been sheriff since 2006 and was a former Howard County police detective.
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