Ouster of liquor board chief a victory for city's senators

Skolnik's exit lets them regain control of panel

March 17, 2004|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

The two-term head of the Baltimore liquor board has been ousted in a move that will restore control of the panel to city senators.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., following the wishes of the senators, submitted the name of John A. Green Sr., a former city school official, yesterday to replace Leonard R. Skolnik. The governor also reappointed two other board members, Claudia L. Brown and Mark S. Fosler.

Fosler, who just completed his first term on the board, is expected to replace Skolnik as chairman.

Skolnik had the backing of former Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, a powerful city Democrat. He was reappointed last year with Hoffman's support, even though she had lost a re-election bid the year before, angering some members of the city's current Senate delegation.

Asked about Skolnik's departure, Henry Fawell, a spokesman for Ehrlich, would not comment. "We don't discuss individual personnel matters," Fawell said.

"What this does is bring about some peace with the governor's office and city senators, and we can go on to bigger issues other than who serves on the city liquor board," said Sen. George W. Della Jr., a Baltimore Democrat.

Skolnik said in an interview that he had not expected to be reappointed, adding, "I wish the new chairman well, and I hope he is successful in attempting to reform such an entrenched and poorly performing bureaucracy."

Hoffman said she was not surprised at the announcement. "The city senators have a right to suggest names, and that's what they did," she said.

Fosler said that as chairman he would continue his efforts to convert the liquor board from a patronage agency to one governed by civil service laws, which a 1998 law requires.

"The vestiges of patronage are still there," said Fosler, a longtime investigator and neighborhood relations specialist for the city's Community Relations Commission.

A year ago Ehrlich's decision not to reappoint William A. "Pete" Welch, the son of a longtime City Council member, Agnes Welch, to the liquor board touched off a barrage of protests from city senators, who traditionally have controlled liquor board appointments.

Green could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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