Ex-Howard po­lice chief named sher­iff

Gover­nor Ho­gan ap­points McMa­hon af­ter res­ig­na­tion of Fitzger­ald last month

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Michael Dresser Bal­ti­more Sun Me­dia Group re­porter Fa­timah Waseem con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle. mdresser@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/michaelt­dresser

Gov. Larry Ho­gan ap­pointed a for­mer Howard County po­lice chief Thurs­day to re­place the county’s sher­iff, James F. Fitzger­ald, who re­signed last month amid charges of dis­crim­i­na­tion and re­tal­i­a­tion against em­ploy­ees.

Wil­liam J. McMa­hon, who led the county po­lice from 2006 to 2014 and gained promi­nence as the de­part­ment’s pub­lic face dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the fa­tal shoot­ings in 2014 at The Mall in Columbia, will take over the sher­iff’s of­fice.

Since re­tir­ing, McMa­hon has served as act­ing ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Mary­land Po­lice and Cor­rec­tional Train­ing Com­mis­sions.

Fitzger­ald, a Demo­crat, quit un­der pres­sure af­ter the county’s Of­fice of Hu­man Rights found there was “rea­son­able cause” to be­lieve he had re­tal­i­ated and dis­crim­i­nated against em­ploy­ees who did not sup­port his 2014 election cam­paign. Law- mak­ers had been ex­plor­ing whether the Gen­eral Assem­bly could im­peach him.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors laid out ac­cu­sa­tions that Fitzger­ald used racist and vul­gar lan­guage, in­clud­ing a ref­er­ence to for­mer County Ex­ec­u­tive Ken Ul­man as “lit­tle Kenny Jew-boy,” and dis­parag­ing re­marks about AfricanAmer­i­can deputies.

The gover­nor’s of­fice said that as chief, McMa­honover­saw sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tions in most cat­e­gories of crime in Howard County and im­ple­mented pro­grams that im­proved traf­fic safety and of­fi­cer safety.

His de­part­ment was in the na­tional spot­light in the af­ter­math of the Jan­uary 2014 shoot­ing at the Columbia mall. A 19-year-old gun­man shot and killed two mall em­ploy­ees, then took his own life.

McMa­hon, 54, said his fo­cus as sher­iff will be on restor­ing pub­lic con­fi­dence in the of­fice and mak­ing sure em­ploy­ees have “a pos­i­tive work environment.” He de­clined to elab­o­rate un­til he has had an op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress the work­force.

A Repub­li­can, McMa­hon also de­clined to say whether he would seek election to a McMa­hon four-year term in 2018.

Fitzger­ald made $91,000 an­nu­ally. It was not im­me­di­ately clear whether McMa­hon would make the same amount.

Howard County Ex­ec­u­tive Al­lan H. Kit­tle­man praised Ho­gan’s choice, call­ing McMa­hon an “ap­pro­pri­ate and thought­ful” se­lec­tion.

“Bill McMa­hon has demon­strated he has the temperament, ded­i­ca­tion and lead­er­ship qual­i­ties to lead the sher­iff’s of­fice and will help re­store con­fi­dence to both that of­fice and the res­i­dents of Howard County,” Kit­tle­man, a Repub­li­can, said in a state­ment.

Howard County Coun­cil Chair­man Calvin Ball, a Demo­crat, said he has known McMa­hon for al­most 20 years and be­lieves he will bring “ex­pe­ri­ence and com­pe­tence” to the job.

“When he ran the Po­lice De­part­ment, he ran it with honor and dis­tinc­tion, and he was a joy to work with,” Ball said.

David Steele, pres­i­dent of the Howard County NAACP, also re­called McMa­hon’s ten­ure as chief. He said McMa­hon was “very open, very fair” and “very at­ten­tive to the is­sues I brought forth.”

One of the first things McMa­hon will need to do, Steele said, is as­sess whether the type of think­ing Fitzger­ald rep­re­sented is preva­lent in the de­part­ment. If so, McMa- hon needs to “root it out,” he said.

“The newly ap­pointed sher­iff’s first goal should be to re­store the de­part­ment to a level of re­spect and con­fi­dence,” Steele added.

John McMa­hon, run­ner-up in the 2014 race for Howard County sher­iff, said the ap­point­ment won’t re­solve all the is­sues in the sher­iff’s of­fice. He is not re­lated to Wil­liam McMa­hon.

“There has been a prob­lem with the sher­iff for a decade,” John McMa­hon said. “My ques­tion is ba­si­cally, how could this hap­pen? It didn’t hap­pen in a vac­uum.”

Ear­lier this year, he filed a law­suit in Cir­cuit Court call­ing for the state to re­place Fitzger­ald. He al­leged the for­mer sher­iff never took the oath of of­fice and was not el­i­gi­ble for the po­si­tion.

“The ap­point­ment si­lences those is­sues,” he said.

John McMa­hon had ap­plied for the va­cancy af­ter Fitzger­ald re­signed. On Wed­nes­day, the court de­cided he has no le­gal right to the of­fice be­cause state law re­quires the gover­nor to ap­point the sher­iff in the event of va­cancy.

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