Howard County Sheriff James Fitzgerald, who was under fire for alleged racism and sexism has resigned on Tuesday. According to the Howard County Council, his last day in the office will be Saturday, October 15 and the decision came after many talks as a conciliation agreement in principle was reached, an easier alternative to a lengthy impeachment process.
Gov. Larry Hogan will be charged with replacing Fitzgerald, according to the Maryland Constitution.
Council Chairman Calvin Ball addressed the resignation saying in a statement:
Responding to concerns about Sheriff Fitzgerald and allegations of discrimination, I have diligently worked with all parties to reach a resolution so that our community can begin healing. This wasn’t just one call or conversation or press release. This was a difficult process. I believed from the instant the issue came to light that resignation was the only option, and I needed the Sheriff to see that as well. After extensive negotiations, I am pleased to announce the attorneys for all parties have shared with me that a conciliation agreement in principle has been reached. The County’s Office of Law has advised that they anticipate a fully signed agreement by close of business today.
I appreciate the call for impeachment; however, this can be a lengthy process. Therefore, I began engaging in discussions with Mr. Fitzgerald, following the release of the Human Rights report, to discuss the voluntary conciliatory process, as outlined in our Howard County Code. I spoke with him about the pain of our community and how we needed to turn the page on this chapter of prejudice. The intent of actions and words is irrelevant in the face of such a horrendous impact.
The ideals of diversity and inclusion that we promote in Howard County will never be fully realized if we avoid difficult conversations because they make us uncomfortable. Some hurtful things were said, things that I take quite personally as a black man with a beautiful black family.
I thank everyone across the county who stood up, believing as I do, that our community should be a model for celebrating our diversity and actions like this cannot stand unchecked. Howard County deserves better from its leaders. I hope we can see this moment as a beginning and not an end. We will have a new sheriff and we will still have so many issues within and around our community. This episode should show us that we cannot simply assume we are and will be No. 1. We cannot rest on our laurels.
Elected officials, community leaders, and everyday citizens must be ready and willing to struggle to achieve more to engage our diversity and have the difficult conversations.