Howard County Sheriff Michael A. Chiuchiolo today fired two deputies whose Nazi salutes and gestures outraged the county's Jewish community and divided the Sheriff's Department.
In an order issued today, Chiuchiolo said Maj. Donald Pruitt and Sgt. Dennis Pruitt, 39-year-old twins, "do not fit into my future plans for the department."
The sheriff said he was convinced the deputies should be fired after they appeared before an administrative trial board hearing and met with him Jan. 29. He rejected the recommendation by the board, which said the deputies should be demoted and fined.
"To accept the trial board's recommendations and integrate you back into the organization even as deputies, let alone supervisors, would demoralize the employees, seriously hamper the efforts to rebuild the supervisory structure and change the direction and attitudes envisioned as necessary to instill a new sense of internal pride and community respect," the order said.
Chiuchiolo said the deputies had mimicked Nazi behavior over eight years.
The Pruitts admitted they gave Nazi salutes, clicked their heels and uttered such Nazi phrases as "Sieg Heil" and "Achtung" while at work but said it was a parody of the television show "Hogan's Heroes."
Several co-workers testified during a hearing before a three-member administrative trial board that the brothers continued the behavior after former Sheriff Herbert L. Stonesifer ordered them to stop.
The board said the acts were offensive and outrageous, and it found the Pruitts guilty Dec. 11 of conduct unbecoming to law enforcement officers. It acquitted them of charges of disobeying an order and insubordination for continuing the salutes after being told to stop and of abusing their authority for trying to quash the complaints.
The board recommended that each twin be demoted one rank, fined $200 and ordered to undergo professional counseling to address cultural or sensitivity awareness.
Members of the Jewish community said the board recommendation was too lenient.
Chiuchiolo said he had the final say regarding discipline of his employees.
"So that the record will be clear, I specifically reject the suggestion of the trial board that I am precluded from making the final decision," he said in his order.
Donald Pruitt was second in command and Dennis was third when suspended. Chiuchiolo, who took office in December, named Charles M. Cave chief deputy.