WASHINGTON - Howard County’s new sheriff has been on the job for just a few weeks now after his predecessor resigned amid accusations of discrimination, racism and other misconduct.
After James Fitzgerald announced his retirement in October, Maryland’s governor selected Bill McMahon, Howard County’s former police chief, to finish out the term.
“The allegations of what happened in the past, to me, are in the past,” McMahon said. “But I think they did really kind of violate what people thought this county was known for.”
According to an ethics investigation, sheriff’s employees said Fitzgerald “ruled by fear and terror,” frequently used slurs against women and minorities, and was known to say that he was the sheriff and could do whatever he wanted in the county.
McMahon told FOX 5 that he was initially concerned about what could be left behind at the sheriff’s office after that kind of culture.
“In terms of conflict, turmoil or division, for the most part, we really haven’t seen that,” he said. “People are just ready to move on and move forward.”
He said he has met with each employee to get their viewpoints and concerns, and that he has found people doing great work despite the difficult circumstances they endured. He said over Christmas, employees took it upon themselves to organize a collection for domestic violence victims.
“This was out of their own pocket,” McMahon said. “We had a conference room full of diapers, cleaning supplies, food, all types of things. That is really encouraging when you ask about the morale of the workforce.”
The investigation into Fitzgerald’s conduct was launched by Lt. Charles Gable, who quit his job and filed a formal complaint. As part of the sheriff’s agreement to retire, Gable was reinstated.
While he declined a formal interview, Gable told FOX 5 that he and others in the office are smiling again at work and that he has seen a real change in morale.
McMahon said he has not decided whether he will run for sheriff when his term ends in 2018.
“I really haven’t had a chance to focus on that,” he said. “Everybody has asked that.”