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Politicsby Fern Shen5:17 pmJan 4, 20190

Public hearing on Fitzgerald – without Fitzgerald – to be held as scheduled

Pugh says change of plans the result of BPD commissioner candidate’s son’s illness. Postponement comes after reports question his resume.

Above: Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald was Mayor Pugh’s choice to lead the Baltimore Police Department. His son’s medical problems caused him today to withdraw from consideration, she said. (YouTube)

The last time Baltimore’s City Council brought a potential police commissioner candidate before citizens for a public hearing, back in February, eye contact with the candidate was apparently out of bounds.

Activist Tawanda Jones, whose brother Tyrone West died after a 2013 encounter with police, was scolded by Councilman Robert Stokes for merely facing Acting Commissioner Darryl De Sousa, the designee, as she testified.

No chance of that happening at the Council hearing scheduled tomorrow:

Mayor Catherine Pugh’s latest choice for commissioner won’t be there.

Due to a family medical crisis, Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald is not coming to Baltimore for the community meetings and Council hearings that had been scheduled, Pugh announced yesterday.

But Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young decided to hold the hearing anyway, in part because so many people had re-arranged their schedules in order to make time to be there, said his aide, Lester Davis.
City Council Executive Appointments Committee public hearing on Joel Fitzgerald’s nomination takes place Saturday (tomorrow) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Council Chambers on the 4th floor at City Hall, 100 North Holliday Street. Picture ID required.
Davis said Young found the nominee’s sudden absence in town no reason to postpone the hearing, though he did find the news that Fitzgerald’s son needed surgery distressing.

“Jack’s heart sank when he heard the man’s son was ill and had to be rushed to the hospital,” Davis said.

Rescheduling the public hearing was unnecessary, according to Davis, because the priority is “for the citizens to express their views on the city’s next police commissioner and to address the Council members responsible for confirming that person.”

“This is for people to make their statement about policing in Baltimore and that’s going to be constant, no matter who the nominee is, whether it’s Joel or anybody else,” the spokesman said.

Two “meet-and-greet” meetings with the community that had been scheduled on Sunday (at the Jewish Community Center on Park Heights Avenue and at the Morgan Business Center on Hillen Road) have been canceled.

In addition, the Executive Appointments Committee hearing planned for 5 p.m. Monday at City Hall, according to a release from Young’s office, “will likely be postponed and rescheduled.”

Resume Reportedly Overstated

The announcement that Fitzgerald would not be coming to Baltimore came on a day when two stories broke that found the nominee had inflated his resume.

In a resume submitted for the Baltimore job, Fitzgerald overstated his role in Fort Worth’s police body camera program and his accomplishments in reducing violent crime, according a review by the Baltimore Sun.

The announcement that Fitzgerald wasn’t coming to Baltimore came hours after The Sun published its story yesterday morning.

Later in the day, the Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. published a story saying that Fitzgerald exaggerated his accomplishments during his time as that town’s police chief, from December 2013 to October 2015.

Will Fitzgerald Withdraw?

Asked if the announcement about Fitzgerald’s change of plans presages a decision by Pugh to withdraw Fitzgerald’s nomination, Davis declined to speculate.

“All we can control is what’s in our purview and that is to make sure that the process is conducted in a manner that is as transparent as possible,” Davis said.

“All we know is what we are told by the mayor’s  office. We heard about this yesterday when you did.”

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