Howard County Names Interim Sheriff

James Fitzgerald resigned as sheriff, effective Oct. 15. (Photo provided)

Don Knott, a lieutenant in the Howard County Sherriff’s Office, was named interim sheriff on Monday following the resignation of Sheriff James Fitzgerald, whose alleged anti-Semitic, racist and misogynistic remarks were detailed in a September report, county spokesman Andy Barth said.

Knott has more than 43 years of experience in state law enforcement.

Fitzgerald, a Democrat serving his third term, signed an agreement on Oct. 11 stating his last day in office would be Saturday, Oct. 15. Howard County officials confirmed Fitzgerald vacated his office as planned.

Howard County Council chairman Calvin Ball, a Democrat, said in a prepared statement last week that he worked diligently to negotiate a pact that ended with Fitzgerald agreeing to step down from his post.

“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,” Ball said in the statement. “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.”

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, a Republican, hopes to have a permanent solution in place no later than November, Barth said. In accordance with the state’s constitution, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) will appoint a replacement to complete the remainder of Fitzgerald’s term, which concludes in 2018.

“[Howard] County Executive Kittleman is pleased that the sheriff followed the wishes of many, many people inside and outside of the county that he resign,” Barth said via email.

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, a  Democrat who was among many politicians statewide calling for Fitzgerald to resign, said in a prepared statement that he is looking forward to Howard County moving on from Fitzgerald.

“Sheriff Fitzgerald has done the right thing for Howard County by agreeing to resign his post. Howard County’s officers deserve a safe and respectful workplace, and residents deserve to feel confidence in all levels of their law enforcement,” Cardin said in the statement. “Sheriff Fitzgerald’s disparaging behavior had justifiably eroded that essential trust. I’m grateful that there will now be a fresh start and a new opportunity for leadership in the Howard County Sheriff’s office to demonstrate the integrity and respect that we expect from our law enforcement.”

The county’s Office of Human Rights released a 48-page report Sept. 1 that detailed Fitzgerald referring to former Howard County Executive Ken Ulman as “little Kenny Jew-boy” as well as derogatory comments about African-Americans and women. Fitzgerald was also accused of retaliating against deputies who did not support his re-election in 2010.

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