A Maryland sheriff’s last day was Saturday after an investigation found he frequently made racist, anti-Semitic and sexist comments at work and created a “hostile work environment.”
James Fitzgerald resigned last week from his position as sheriff of Howard County, Maryland, a county of more than300,000 people. Officials had been seeking a way to remove Fitzgerald from office following the results of the investigation, which included, among other statements, comments such as telling a Black man at a buffet there was “no watermelon” and calling a Jewish man “little Jew-boy.”
The investigation came about after former Lt. Charles Gable filed a formal complaint against Fitzgerald. Gable eventually quit his job because he could no longer work in the derogatory environment Fitzgerald subjected him to. According to the report by the Office of Human Rights, “[Gable] alleges that Sheriff Fitzgerald fuels the hostile environment, in demonstration of a Creed opposite to his, by making derogatory comments, using racial epithets and slurs towards employees, colleagues, citizens and other government officials who are female, Black, gay, Asian or Jewish.”
“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,” said Allan Kittleman, a Howard County executive. According to Kittleman, Fitzgerald had “ignored calls from myself, other elected officials and community leaders in the county for him to resign.”
Gable believes Fitzgerald began the hostile treatment when Gable stopped supporting Fitzgerald’s sheriff campaign.
Fitzgerald denied he ever “belittled, intimidated, threatened, verbally berated [Gable] or ever used profanity-laced remarks against him.” However, while Gable’s complaint launched the investigation, it also brought to light a pattern of racist, sexist behavior on Fitzgerald’s part.
The report highlights several specific racial incidents in which Fitzgerald purported racial stereotypes. In one situation, Fitzgerald said to a Black man at a buffet, “There’s no watermelon there for you!” Similarly, while eating with a group of people, Fitzgerald sarcastically asked a Black man, “Are you getting the ‘chicken’ special” In a separate incident, Fitzgerald told several deputies that after losing a bet with a Black man, rather than buying him a dozen donuts, which was a usual practice, he would have to buy him “chicken.”
Fitzgerald also said in front of at least one witness, “The [African-American Deputies] are not too smart but they get the job done.” He also said to the president of the Retired Police Officer’s Association, a Black man, “I voted for your ‘boy’ Obama.”
Additionally, the sheriff frequently used a racial slur for Blacks, witnesses reported.
According to the report, Fitzgerald made derogatory comments about women, including one about breasts, and also made anti-Semitic remarks. He once called Howard County’s former county executive, a man named Ken Ulman, “little Kenny Jew-boy.”
“[Fitzgerald] was universally described as vindictive, arrogant, narcissistic, rude, belligerent, nasty, and intimidating,” the report states. “Many said that Sheriff Fitzgerald is not interested in the betterment of the Sheriff’s Office or the good of the County; he is only interested in his own power and likes to abuse it.”
Witnesses interviewed during the investigation expressed concern reporting the sheriff’s bad behavior for fear of not being believed. One person said, “Sheriff Fitzgerald rules by fear and terror. He WILL retaliate against anyone he thinks might be part of your investigation.”
Kittleman called Gable “the real hero” for reporting the sheriff’s behavior. “I think maybe people were upset, but kept quiet,” he said.
Gable will be reinstated as a lieutenant and will receive more than $58,000 in back pay, The Washington Times reported.