ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman directed county attorneys Monday to explore all options for expediting the removal of Sheriff James Fitzgerald over alleged racist and sexist comments outlined in a county investigation.
Kittleman said he remains disappointed that the sheriff “has ignored calls from myself, other elected officials and community leaders in the county for him to resign.”
“His egregious conduct and behavior as detailed in a Howard County Office of Human Rights investigation are incompatible with the values of inclusion and respect that we hold dear in Howard County,” Kittleman said in a statement.
The Howard County Office of Human Rights report, which resulted from an investigation after a complaint was filed by a former deputy in the sheriff’s office, substantiated claims that Fitzgerald created a hostile work environment by making derogatory comments about African-Americans, women and Jews. It also substantiated claims that he retaliated against deputies who didn’t support his re-election. The complaint was filed in September 2015. The office’s decision came last month.
Fitzgerald, a Democrat, said during a Sept. 29 news conference in response to the report’s findings that he would “continue to serve the citizens of Howard County.” He also said he was committed to diversity, noting that 19 of the 69 positions in his office are held by African-Americans.
After Fitzgerald said he wouldn’t resign, Kittleman urged members of the county’s delegation to the General Assembly to explore options to impeach the sheriff.
“I have previously called upon local state legislators to begin the impeachment process to address the numerous complaints surrounding Sheriff Fitzgerald,” Kittleman said Monday. “However, I continue to hear concerns from all parts of the community that this course of action won’t happen fast enough, and I agree.”
Kittleman, a Republican, said he was directing the Howard County Office of Law to explore “any and all legal means available through the court system” to expedite the sheriff’s removal.
Howard County, which is located between the nation’s capital and the city of Baltimore, is one of the wealthiest counties in the country. It has more than 310,000 residents, and the county is home to one of the nation’s most educated workforces.
The General Assembly would need to be in session to conduct impeachment proceedings against the sheriff. Lawmakers are scheduled to convene for their next legislative session Jan. 11.
Sen. Guy Guzzone, who chairs the county’s delegation to the General Assembly, said the delegation has asked for guidance from the attorney general’s office on the full range of potential options, including impeachment proceedings.
“There’s no question we intend to move forward with that,” said Guzzone, a Democrat. He added that he expected to hear back from the attorney general’s office early this week.