Investigation finds evidence of discrimination by Howard sheriff
The Howard County Office of Human Rights has concluded that Sheriff James Fitzgerald discriminated against Lt. Charles Gable for more than five years, subjecting Gable to such “abusive” treatment that he was forced to leave the agency.
After Gable did not support Fitzgerald’s second political campaign, the human rights office reported, Fitzgerald “berated and belittled” Gable to the point that he had “no other choice but to leave his job.”
The 48-page decision, dated Sept. 1, was obtained from Gable’s attorney, Joseph Mallon Jr.
Current and former sheriff’s office employees who were interviewed for the investigation described similar treatment by Fitzgerald because they did not share his political opinions or support his election.
The human rights office said the sheriff, who is white, berated employees with what some described as racially charged language and gestures against African-Americans, and demeaned “the integrity of the person by use of inappropriate humor based on racial stereotypes.”
The human rights office reported that the sheriff used the “n-word,” made derogatory comments about women’s breasts and called former County Executive Ken Ulman “little Kenny Jew Boy.”
Fitzgerald, who is in his third term as sheriff, did not respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for the state attorney general’s office, which represents Fitzgerald in his official capacity, said Fitzgerald disagrees with the findings.
“No judge or jury has determined that Sheriff Fitzgerald violated any laws,” spokeswoman Raquel Coombs said. “The sheriff disagrees with the investigation’s findings, particularly since he did not have an opportunity to participate in the investigation.”
The human rights office interviewed Fitzgerald, Coombs said, but the investigation was “one-sided in terms of the ability to cross-examine witnesses.”
The human rights office said Fitzgerald denied engaging in any discriminatory conduct. He said he reprimanded Gable on work-related issues, but indicated it was “nothing out of the ordinary.” He described himself as “a loud New Yorker.”
The human rights office found “reasonable cause” for a finding of discrimination. The matter can now be considered by the county’s Human Rights Commission, in a court or through mediation.