COLUMBIA, Md. — Howard County Sheriff James Fitzgerald says he is sorry for the hubbub surrounding a county report that said he likely discriminated against a lieutenant who didn’t support his political campaign, but he will not resign.
“I want to apologize to you all, for the atmosphere that had been created the last week or so, for the accusations that have been directed at me during my time as the sheriff,” Fitzgerald said during a statement in his Columbia office.
With a roomful of reporters, and with the blessings of a private public relations representative, Fitzgerald did not take questions after his orchestrated statement.
Last week, the Howard County Office of Human Rights found “reasonable cause” that Fitzgerald discriminated against a lieutenant who did not support his campaign.
The agency’s report determined Fitzgerald had created a hostile work environment, in which he belittled employees with racist language.
“I will not comment on the case because it’s still developing,” said Fitzgerald. “I can say the report was humbling, hurtful and disappointing to all involved.”
Fitzgerald listed ways in which he has contributed to what he described as the most diverse sheriff’s office in the county’s history.
“How can I better serve — how can I be part of the solution,” Fitzgerald asked rhetorically, as he expressed his commitment to healing wounds.
Outside the office, approximately a dozen protesters held signs calling for Fitzgerald’s resignation.
“He’s a jolly guy, but I don’t see any change coming,” said longtime county resident Sherman Howell.
Howell, an African-American, said he’s not convinced Fitzgerald is serious about his pledge to soothe the community.
“We have to get together in the same room,” Howell said.
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