House passes bill to end patronage inspection jobs Senate may kill measure to regulate bar monitors

March 27, 1996|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

A bill that would end Baltimore's patronage system for hiring city liquor inspectors has passed the Maryland House of Delegates, but it might who select inspectors.

Baltimore Democratic Del. James W. Campbell sponsored the bill, which would require that future liquor inspectors be hired under the city's civil service procedures.

Mr. Campbell said yesterday that he is trying -- for the second year -- to abolish the patronage system because he wants "to remove any questions about the liquor board's motivations in enforcing the laws."

Baltimore has 28 full-time and part-time liquor inspectors who monitor bars for many things, from bathroom conditions to the presence of prostitution and illegal nude dancing. People apply for the jobs directly to city senators, who send their recommendations to the governor. The jobs have no formal qualifications, but political connections with Baltimore senators have proved to be an asset.

Democratic Sen. John A. Pica Jr., who heads the city's Senate delegation, said yesterday that while he has yet to read the bill, he hasn't "heard any strong reasons why the bill is necessary."

Two years ago, The Sun reported conflicts of interest involving liquor inspectors who solicited campaign contributions for state Senate campaigns from bars and restaurants they regulated.

Mr. Pica noted yesterday that those inspectors no longer work for the city liquor board. He said he has written to the liquor board to try to ensure that it prohibits inspectors from soliciting campaign contributions. "To my knowledge, that practice doesn't exist anymore," he said.

This year's version of Mr. Campbell's bill is supported by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

The bill "would serve to protect the [inspectors] from arbitrary treatment and would serve as a useful reassurance to the public as to the integrity of administration of the state's liquor license laws," said Henry W. Bogdan, the mayor's lobbyist.

In addition to removing any political link to the inspection jobs, Mr. Campbell said he would like job requirements included. "Other cities require a law enforcement background or some college education. Here, we have no requirements," he said.

But Mr. Pica disagreed.

"I don't know that you need strict requirements to inspect a liquor establishment," he said.

Pub Date: 3/27/96

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