State and local leaders in Howard County are exploring whether county Sheriff James Fitzgerald can be impeached. The Sheriff has been faced with calls to resign from office following a human rights investigation into discrimination complaints filed against him.
Fitzgerald, a constitutional officer elected by county residents, has declined to resign, despite pressure from a wide range of county leaders. This has pushed county legislative representatives to consult with attorneys to determine the boundaries and procedures for impeaching a constitutional officer under the state constitution and local laws. This recourse has been rarely pursued in Maryland.
The Baltimore Sun reports:
Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman asked the county’s top lawmakers in Annapolis to investigate whether they General Assembly can impeach Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald has been accused of using foul and racist language, belittling and threatening employees and creating a hostile work environment for those who did not support his campaign. The accusations were detailed in a report from the county’s Office of Human Rights, which found “reasonable cause” that the sheriff discriminated against a lieutenant who had filed a complaint.
Kittleman, a Republican, said he doesn’t take the allegations lightly.
“I recognize that impeachment of any elected official is an extreme step, one that should not be taken in haste,” Kittleman wrote lawmakers. “But 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.”
Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, chairwoman of the county’s House delegation, said she and her counterpart in the Senate, Sen. Guy Guzzone, have asked the General Assembly’s lawyers for advice on whether they can impeach the sheriff and how the process would work.
Atterbeary said the Maryland Constitution has provisions for impeaching holders of state offices, including county sheriffs.
Atterbeary and Guzzone plan to meet soon with all of Howard County’s delegates and senators to see if they want to proceed with impeachment.
For more information read the full article in The Baltimore Sun.