Complaint hits 4 on liquor board

Suspended top inspector alleges political favoritism

Daniels, bar owner trade accusations

April 09, 2005|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's chief liquor inspector accused four members of the city's Board of Liquor License Commissioners yesterday of engaging in political collusion and corruption to protect some bar owners on The Block from sanctions.

In his complaint filed in Baltimore Circuit Court yesterday, Samuel T. Daniels Jr. contends that liquor board members Claudia L. Brown, John A. Green Sr., Nathan C. Irby Jr. and Jane M. Schroeder conspired to "act in accordance with inappropriate political motives in choosing which establishments should be investigated and which ones should not be investigated."

The board suspended Daniels last month, which he says was in response to his effort to investigate bars on The Block. Except for Irby, board members either declined to comment or did not return phone calls yesterday.

Daniels, 57, who has worked as an inspector for 18 years, six of them as chief, also accused the four board members of working with Sen. Joan Carter Conway, a Baltimore Democrat, to replace him with Conway's husband, assistant chief liquor license inspector Vernon "Tim" Conway. Conway is filling in for Daniels during his 30-day suspension.

In his complaint, Daniels alleges a quid pro quo relationship between Senator Conway and at least two bars on The Block, a strip of adult-entertainment establishments downtown. Daniels said that soon after he reported violations at a bar called Norma Jean's on Oct. 15, Senator Conway received campaign contributions from the bar's owner.

"I cannot abide by anyone hoodwinking the citizens of Baltimore," Daniels said. "I won't let anyone hijack the law and the good name my father left to me."

Senator Conway dismissed Daniels' allegations yesterday, saying he is simply bitter that he was suspended. She called allegations that she was trying to win her husband a promotion by disgracing Daniels "grand illusions."

"My issue is that people actually need to be disciplined when they don't abide by the rules and regulations," Conway said, adding that there had "been some issues with [Daniels] conforming to liquor board policy."

A March 17 memo from Irby, who serves as the board's executive secretary, states that Daniels was suspended for insubordination. According to the memo, Daniels violated liquor board rules by investigating illegal gambling events at several bars on New Year's Eve without proper authorization. Irby also reprimanded Daniels for discussing the raids with a City Paper reporter without prior approval from the board's spokesman.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Irby declined to discuss Daniels' suspension or the allegations of corruption.

"You are going into an area that I don't feel comfortable talking about," he said.

Neither the board's chairman, Mark Fosler, nor the board's spokesman, Douglas Paige, responded to phone messages yesterday.

City Solicitor Ralph S. Tyler said he is unsure why the city is named in the complaint, because the liquor board is a state agency. Board members are appointed by the governor every two years. Still, Tyler said the city would investigate and "respond in court."

Daniels said his troubles with the liquor board started when he and another inspector reported inappropriate touching between a male customer and a female dancer at Norma Jean's on Oct. 15.

Six days later, Conway received a sizable contribution from PP&G Inc., a company that shares the same address as Norma Jean's. State elections records show the company contributed $1,500 to Conway's campaign account on Oct. 21.

Daniels said the owner of the bar, Peter Ireland Sr., filed a complaint against him and another liquor board inspector in which the bar owner alleged harassment of a female employee by the other inspector. The bar owner also alleged in his complaint that Daniels yelled at him in an attempt to protect his subordinate.

Daniels said that he was on vacation when the alleged yelling took place. "I wasn't even at work," he said.

Ireland, who also owns a bar called Tiffany's, doesn't dispute that he complained about Daniels and the other inspector, whose name could not be confirmed yesterday. The bar owner said he stands by his account of events.

"Daniels is protecting that guy," Ireland said. "[They] don't deserve the badge."

Ireland said he gives lots of money to politicians -- in addition to Conway, he has donated to such officials as Mayor Martin O'Malley and state Sens. Lisa A. Gladden and Nathaniel J. McFadden -- and that it has nothing to do with favors.

"I gave $3,000 to O'Malley," Ireland said. "You think he's doing anything for me?"

Ireland said Daniels approached him about two years ago and asked him to say bad things about the Conways.

"He wanted me to say Tim Conway came to me to get money for his wife," Ireland said. "Daniels said he could make a lot of things go away if I did what he wanted, but I was not willing to do that."

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