Pica's liquor connection Politics prevails: Most qualified person not selected to oversee city liquor board.

September 28, 1996

DENIALS BY state Sen. John A. Pica Jr. that he had anything to do with the hiring of one of his political allies to run Baltimore's liquor board are not convincing. Mr. Pica claims he did not push the application of Julian A. Morgan, the former director of a non-profit work-release program. But he didn't have to. Mr. Morgan's connections to Mr. Pica weren't a secret.

Liquor board Chairman George G. Brown cast the only vote against Mr. Morgan, while board members Charles E. Thompson and Curtis H. Baer voted for him. Mr. Baer managed Mr. Pica's 1994 re-election campaign, which that year gave $1,000 to the North Central Democratic Coalition, a political group that Mr. Morgan chairs. Mr. Brown says he tried but failed to remove politics from the board vote.

The outcome wasn't surprising. In all of its 60 years, the board, which is appointed by the city's state senators, has rarely disobeyed their orders. Retired executive secretary Aaron Stansbury did his best to run a professional shop despite a staff of inspectors who owed their jobs to the local senators. Now Mr. Stansbury is being replaced by another one of the senators' political cronies.

The public must share the blame for this turn of events. It has not given the city's state senators a clear message that it wants the liquor board to be independent. The public's nonchalance has allowed the senators to ignore reform efforts. They have refused to pass legislation calling for inspectors to be hired under civil service procedures and thwarted efforts to pass a law preventing inspectors from soliciting campaign contributions for the senators from bar owners.

The good old b'hoy patronage system is alive and well in Baltimore, where a job with the liquor board still depends on who you know, not what you can do. It's time the liquor board was emancipated from the senators' tight bonds. But there's little chance of that with Mr. Morgan at the helm. He is going to have to prove he will do more than tend bar for Mr. Pica.

Pub Date: 9/28/96

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