Panel seeks more data on liquor board chairman's action

Rakes didn't disclose ties to applicant for license

February 23, 2005|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Ethics Commission has requested more information about the county liquor board chairman's failure to disclose a prior relationship with a man who applied for a liquor license in November.

Haluk "Alec" Kantar was campaign treasurer for County Councilman and liquor board Chairman David A. Rakes when Kantar, a local restaurateur, applied for a liquor license.

Lynn Benton, chairwoman of the Ethics Commission, said after a closed meeting last night that "the only information we have are press reports. We're looking to get correct information" before discussing the ethical aspects of Rakes' action at the commission's next meeting March 22.

Rakes, an east Columbia Democrat, said, "I've done nothing wrong. If the Ethics Commission wants to take a look at it, fine."

Rakes, whose district includes east Columbia and Jessup, never told his fellow council members, who also sit as the liquor board, that Kantar was his campaign treasurer.

When Kantar applied for a liquor license last fall to open a restaurant at Oakland Mills Village Center in Rakes' district, Rakes was the only one of four board members to support the application and vote for it.

In the end, the liquor board rejected the application, 3-1, but later allowed Kantar to withdraw the application so another buyer could apply for a license without waiting a year.

Liquor board members criticized Kantar for what they felt was a deliberate attempt to deceive them by claiming that he had never held another liquor license and that he could not remember two instances of failing to appear in court.

Councilman Christopher J. Merdon, an Ellicott City Republican, called Kantar's record "the worst" he had seen.

Rakes acknowledged using Kantar as his campaign treasurer from September 2003, but he said he replaced the restaurant operator last summer. State election board records list Kantar as treasurer until Feb. 8.

Other council members said that if they had been in Rakes' place, they would have disclosed a connection to a license applicant and recused themselves from voting. They said Rakes should have done so in the case of Kantar.

Rakes said his failure to mention the connection was "an oversight" and agreed it was an error on his part.

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