Liquor official to resign in deal worth $28,000 Chief inspector of Baltimore board faces bribery trial

Cianferano 'good employee'

September 24, 1998|By Walter F. Roche Jr. | Walter F. Roche Jr.,SUN STAFF

The chief inspector of the Baltimore liquor board, who is due to stand trial for bribery early next year, has agreed to resign in a deal that allows him to collect nearly $28,000 in accumulated sick time and vacation pay.

Liquor board officials made the agreement with Anthony J. Cianferano, saying his 20 years of service justified resignation rather than termination.

"He was a good employee," said Nathan C. Irby Jr., liquor board executive secretary. "We're still not sure he's going to be convicted."

Cianferano is a central figure in a corruption investigation of the Baltimore liquor board in which state prosecutors say city bar and restaurant owners were shaken down for hundreds of dollars in kickbacks.

Irby said yesterday that the resignation agreement was reached this week with the 45-year-old former chief inspector. He said he was awaiting Cianferano's formal letter of resignation.

Leonard Skolnick, liquor board chairman, said that he was glad Cianferano resigned. Skolnick added that if the veteran employee hadn't stepped down, he would have been fired.

Skolnick said the board was facing an Oct. 1 deadline to act on Cianferano's status.

On that date, under a new state law, the position of chief inspector will come under the city civil service system. With such protection, officials could not have terminated Cianferano until his conviction, if that would occur.

Cianferano and five others were indicted in May on charges they were involved in a 10-year conspiracy to thwart enforcement of liquor laws. Cianferano and another inspector were also charged with accepting hundreds of dollars in bribes from bar and restaurant owners. If found guilty, Cianferano could receive a 14-year prison term and could pay $6,000 in fines.

Two of the defendants have entered guilty pleas. Cianferano has pleaded not guilty.

A day after the indictments were announced, the liquor board voted to suspend Cianferano immediately without pay.

Irby conceded yesterday that some people might conclude that Cianferano was being rewarded, but he said the decision to allow a resignation in lieu of termination was a recognition of Cianferano's service. A liquor board employee since 1977, Cianferano became the chief inspector in 1988.

"For one thing, I thought that he was an excellent employee during the time I've been here," said Irby, who took over the chief administrator's post at the liquor board more than a year ago.

Irby said that if Cianferano had been fired, it would have jeopardized his accrued benefits, which include 91 days of vacation, 130 sick days, 29.5 hours of compensatory time and 6.75 days of personal leave. Based on his annual salary of $32,302, that means Cianferano will collect nearly $28,000. Irby said Cianferano will retain his pension rights because of his 20 years of service.

"There are no good guys and bad guys under the pension law," said Irby, when asked whether Cianferano might lose the pension if he is convicted.

Thomas Taneyhill, administrator of the city pension board, said he could not comment specifically on Cianferano's case, but he concurred with Irby's statement that a conviction would not affect an employee's retirement rights.

He said that an employee with 20 years of service could retire at age 65 with an annual pension equal to 34 percent of his or her annual salary. He said that benefit would be cut in half if the retiree began collecting the pension at age 55.

The May 6 indictment of Cianferano and the others resulted from an 18-month probe of the liquor board by state Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli. The investigation included hours of wiretaps and undercover surveillance of Cianferano and others.

Montanarelli has stated that the probe was prompted by Marion Turner, a former liquor board inspector who says there was widespread corruption in the agency.

Turner, who was fired in 1996 at the urging of former state Sen. Larry Young, sued to get her job back, but her suit was thrown out by a Circuit Court judge in a decision recently upheld by the Court of Special Appeals. Turner said yesterday she would continue her appeal in state court and would file a suit in federal court, challenging her dismissal.

She said she lost all her benefits when she was fired.

Irby noted that he was not at the liquor board at the time of Turner's termination, but he added that he did not feel Cianferano and Turner's cases were comparable.

Pub Date: 9/24/98

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