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Former Howard sheriff says he needs to 'heal and move on'

Former Howard sheriff – accused of discrimination & retaliation – says he's moving on.

Former Howard County Sheriff James F. Fitzgerald, who resigned last week following accusations that he discriminated and retaliated against employees, said Wednesday he's moving on from the controversy.

Fitzgerald did not directly address the accusations detailed in a scathing report from Howard County's Office of Human Rights.

"With a resolution agreed upon by all involved, it is now time to close this chapter," he said in a statement Wednesday. "My family and I need to heal and move on with our lives."

Fitzgerald, a Democrat first elected sheriff in 2006, said he had received "countless emails and texts of support over the last few weeks. It has put tears in my eyes."

He said he would not speak with reporters, because "media interviews will only encourage this story to continue."

The county Office of Human Rights, which investigated a complaint brought by a lieutenant in the sheriff's office, said it had found "reasonable cause" to believe that Fitzgerald retaliated against him by manipulating his work schedules and assignments because the lieutenant did not support the sheriff's re-election campaign.

Human rights investigators detailed accusations that Fitzgerald retaliated against others who didn't support his campaign, systematically promoted his supporters and used vulgar and racist language. He was alleged to have called former County Executive Ken Ulman "little Kenny Jew-boy" and saying that African-American deputies "are not too smart, but they get the job done."

Fitzgerald, who was serving his third term as elected sheriff, agreed to step down last week as officials of both parties researched ways to remove him from office. His last day was Saturday.

The lieutenant who filed the complaint was returned to his job and given back pay. He had resigned this year during the investigation.

More than two dozen politicians from both parties called on Fitzgerald to resign. Howard County's state senators and delegates had begun researching whether the General Assembly could impeach him.

The Howard County sheriff's office provides courthouse security, serves warrants, transports prisoners and addresses landlord-tenant disputes. It is not the county's primary law enforcement agency.

Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, is charged with replacing Fitzgerald. Hogan is not bound to select a Democrat for the position.

A spokesman for Hogan said the selection process is under way and will be completed as soon as possible.

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