Md. law­mak­ers urge Howard County sher­iff to re­sign


Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice

— Five Mary­land mem­bers of Congress on Thurs­day called on Howard County Sher­iff James Fitz­patrick to re­sign af­ter a year-long county probe al­leged he en­gaged in dis­crim­i­na­tory be­hav­ior and cre­ated a hos­tile work en­vi­ron­ment.

Sens. Ben Cardin and Bar­bara Mikul­ski and Reps. Eli­jah Cum­mings of Bal­ti­more, John Sar­banes of Tow­son and C.A. Dutch Rup­pers­berger of Ti­mo­nium signed the let­ter to Fitzger­ald. All are Democrats.

The Howard County Of­fice of Hu­man Rights is­sued a re­port Sept. 1 de­tail­ing its year-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion, say­ing Fitzger­ald di­rected “racial ep­i­thets and slurs” to­ward em­ploy­ees, col­leagues and cit­i­zens who were black, gay, Jewish, fe­male or Asian, and used “in­ap­pro­pri­ate hu­mor based on racial stereo­types.”

In the let­ter, the law­mak­ers said they were “ap­palled” by the re­port’s find­ings and called the sher­iff’s be­hav­ior “un­ac­cept­able.”

“As fed­eral elected of­fi­cials with re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for the peo­ple of Howard


County, we urge you to pri­or­i­tize the needs of the res­i­dents of the county you serve, as well as the of­fi­cers un­der your com­mand, and re­sign your of­fice,” the law­mak­ers wrote.

They said the peo­ple of Howard County de­serve “lead­er­ship that un­der­stands that bul­ly­ing, racism, sex­ism and an­ti­semitism should have no place in Amer­i­can law en­force­ment.”

Re­mov­ing an in­di­vid­ual who has en­gaged in of­fen­sive be­hav­ior helps main­tain a mu­tual re­la­tion­ship be­tween law en­force­ment and com­mu­ni­ties, Cardin spokes­woman Sue Wal­it­sky said in a phone in­ter­view with Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice.

“Law en­force­ment is there to pro­tect the com­mu­nity, the peo­ple it serves, and it’s im­por­tant for the com­mu­nity to know that the law en­force­ment of­fi­cers re­spect them,” Wal­it­sky said.

Mikul­ski de­clined through her of­fice to com­ment fur­ther, and the other law­mak­ers were un­avail­able for com­ment.

Re­marks re­ported to in­ves­ti­ga­tors in­cluded Fitzger­ald al­legedly turn­ing to his African-Amer­i­can deputy and sar­cas­ti­cally say­ing, “Are you get­ting the chicken spe­cial?” and telling the African-Amer­i­can pres­i­dent of the Re­tired Po­lice Of­fi­cer’s As­so­ci­a­tion, “I voted for your ‘boy’ Obama.”

Fitzger­ald also al­legedly said African-Amer­i­can deputies “are not too smart but they get the job done,” ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Fitzger­ald de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tions, and said at a Sept. 29 news con­fer­ence the re­port was “hum­bling, hurt­ful and dis­ap­point­ing for all in­volved,” The Bal­ti­more Sun re­ported.

Howard County Ex­ec­u­tive Al­lan Kit­tle­man also called for Fitzger­ald’s res­ig­na­tion. When the third-term sher­iff said at the news con­fer­ence he had no in­ten­tion of leav­ing his po­si­tion, Kit­tle­man urged law­mak­ers to ex­plore im­peach­ing him.

“The of­fen­sive ac­tions and be­hav­ior doc­u­mented in the OHR re­port are so grossly con­trary to the shared val­ues of in­clu­sion and re­spect for all that we hold dear in Howard County that I see no other re­course,” Kit­tle­man said in a let­ter to Howard County Demo­cratic Del­e­gate Vanessa At­ter­beary and State Sen. Guy Guz­zone, also a Demo­crat.

The Mary­land House of Del­e­gates has sole power to im­peach state of­fi­cers and judges, ac­cord­ing to the state con­sti­tu­tion, and a ma­jor­ity of all mem­bers must ap­prove any bill of im­peach­ment.

Mary­land’s fed­eral law­mak­ers in their let­ter urged Fitzger­ald to al­low the sher­iff’s of­fice to move for­ward with dif­fer­ent lead­er­ship.

“At a time when trust be­tween law en­force­ment and the com­mu­ni­ties they serve has been strained in Mary­land and na­tion­wide, we hope you will do the right thing,” they wrote.

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