Pittman removes former fire chief from transition committee over Facebook posts

Chase Cook
Contact Reporterccook@capgaznews.com

Anne Arundel County Executive-elect Steuart Pittman removed former county Fire Chief Roger Simonds from his transition committee Wednesday over posts Simonds shared on Facebook.

Simonds’ Facebook page has posts directly targeting Muslims and their religion. Those posts included one calling it offensive when Muslim’s wear American flag hijabs. Another one alluded to Muslims killing people and still being let into the country.

A third one said “We now have 2 Muslims voted into Congress. They can’t put their hand on our Bible and swear to uphold our Constitution due to their faith. We are being destroyed within our own country. The trojan horse has made it into our government.” Simonds shared it Saturday at 10:54 p.m.

He also shared one that said “I’m proud to be white, I bet no one passes this on because they are scared to be called a racist.”

Underneath that post Simonds’ account wrote, “Everyone should be proud of their ethnicity. Being proud of yourself IS NOT racist, being HATEFUL towards others makes you racist.”

He also has shared posts that are pro-gun, pro-troops and pro-President Donald Trump.

Simonds did not immediately return a request for comment.

Pittman announced Nov. 20 that Simonds was co-chair of his public safety committee alongside Ed Bergin. After learning about the Facebook posts, Pittman said he called Simonds to inform him he would be removed from the committee.

The incoming county executive said his staff wasn’t checking the social media feeds of people joining the transition committee. Going forward they plan to review the feeds of higher level staff members.

“Even sharing that kind of information adds to a sense in some part of community that it is OK to discriminate based on people’s religion and people’s race,” Pittman said. “That is not OK with me.”

Pittman did not know who would replace Simonds as the co-chair of the committee. He will keep two chairs on the committee with one a law enforcement officer and the other a fire department official.

The Capital reviewed the other social media feeds of committee chairs. None of the others shared similar types of posts.

Simonds was hired as fire chief in 1999 but resigned in 2004 after his management was criticized by then-County Executive Janet Owens because of overtime spending.

That resignation ended a three-decade career in the fire department. Owens serves as a co-chair leading the transition committee alongside County Councilman Chris Trumbauer, D-Annapolis.

Trumbauer said he was disappointed the team didn’t catch the posts.

“We are upset at ourselves for lack of vetting but we will take care of it as soon we can,” Trumbauer said.

This is the second public official to share anti-Muslim posts on their Facebook. County Councilman John Grasso, R-Glen Burnie, was reprimanded by Republican officials after he shared anti-Muslim posts.

The Anne Arundel County Muslim Council initially called for Grasso to resign. Grasso later met with the group and apologized. Grasso was defeated in the Senate District 32 race by Del. Pam Beidle, D-Linthicum.

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