Means sought to oust Howard sher­iff

Ex­ec­u­tive searches for way to re­move Fitzgerald in wake of mul­ti­ple com­plaints

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Pamela Wood pwood@balt­

Howard County Ex­ec­u­tive Al­lan Kit­tle­man pressed his county’s em­bat­tled sher­iff again Mon­day to re­sign, and said he’s ex­plor­ing le­gal op­tions to force the sher­iff out.

Sher­iff James Fitzgerald has been ac­cused of us­ing racist and of­fen­sive lan­guage, dis­crim­i­nat­ing against em­ploy­ees and re­tal­i­at­ing against those who did not sup­port his re-election bid.

The al­le­ga­tions were out­lined in a re­port by the county Of­fice of Hu­man Rights made pub­lic last month. The of­fice in­ves­ti­gated a com­plaint filed last year by a lieu­tenant in the sher­iff’s of­fice who has since re­signed.

Fitzgerald, a Demo­crat, told hu­man rights in­ves­ti­ga­tors he had not done any­thing wrong and is sim­ply a “loud New Yorker.” At a news con­fer­ence late last month, he apol­o­gized for the at­mos­phere caused by the re­port but did not ad­dress any of the al­le­ga­tions. He has other­wise de­clined to com­ment.

More than two dozen cur­rent and for­mer elected of­fi­cials have called on Fitzgerald to re­sign. Law­mak­ers from Howard County are re­search­ing whether the Gen­eral Assem­bly could im­peach him. Fitzgerald

“I cer­tainly would hope he’d re­al­ize there’s not one elected of­fi­cial in Howard County — Repub­li­can or Demo­crat — not one com­mu­nity leader I know who has said he should stay,” Kit­tle­man, a Repub­li­can, said Mon­day.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives with a pub­lic re­la­tions firm hired by Fitzgerald did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment Mon­day. A mes­sage left at the sher­iff’s of­fice was not re­turned. Most gov­ern­ment of­fices were closed for the Colum­bus Day hol­i­day.

The Maryland Con­sti­tu­tion al­lows for the re­moval of elected of­fi­cials who are con­victed of a felony, or of a mis­de­meanor re­lated to their con­duct in of­fice that car­ries the pos­si­bil­ity of jail time. Fitzgerald has not been charged with a crime.

Kit­tle­man said he’s ask­ing the county’s law of­fice to in­ves­ti­gate other ways of forc­ing out Fitzgerald.

He said the county could join a law­suit filed by Fitzgerald’s last election op­po­nent, who says the sher­iff never took the oath of of­fice as re­quired and doesn’t main­tain a per­ma­nent res­i­dence in the county. That law­suit is pend­ing in Anne Arun­del County Cir­cuit Court.

Kit­tle­man said he was open to other op­tions.

“There may be other things out there that we’re not aware of,” he said.

Fitzgerald is in his third term as Howard County sher­iff. He pre­vi­ously was a county po­lice of­fi­cer.

In Howard County, the sher­iff’s of­fice is not the pri­mary law en­force­ment agency. The of­fice pro­vides court­house se­cu­rity, serves war­rants, trans­ports pris­on­ers and han­dles land­lord-ten­ant is­sues.

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