8-hour day required of liquor board employees

Inspectors ordered to file regular reports on activities

September 10, 2005|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore liquor board imposed a new policy yesterday requiring all inspectors to work eight-hour days and to file regular reports showing that they have visited bars.

Board Chairman Mark S. Fosler issued a memo yesterday outlining the change, which requires inspectors to clock in and out at certain times and to report to supervisors daily. In the past, inspectors were required to sign in only when they were at liquor board offices. The rest of the day they were mostly out of pocket.

"I want to ensure that they are working 40 hours and that they are enforcing the rules and responding to community complaints to address nuisance bars," said Fosler, who was recently reappointed to a second term as chairman by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. "We have to be more pro-active."

Liquor board officials past and present say they have long wondered how some inspectors spend their workdays. A review of board files shows that some bars have not been reviewed in years, though each inspector is supposed to survey at least three liquor establishments a day.

Community groups have complained often about a lack of timely response from the liquor board.

"The files we receive don't contain some of what we would consider current and routine inspections," said Fosler, who asked chief liquor inspector Samuel T. Daniels to hand out the memo at a staff meeting.

The new policy goes into effect Monday.

Part of the problem, liquor board officials say, is that some inspectors have other jobs that might be interfering with their enforcement work at the city's 1,400 or so liquor establishments. One inspector works at barbershop, another helps run a catering business, and another is an aide to a state senator.

The officials also say that some inspectors got their jobs - civil service positions that pay $26,556 to $45,203 a year with generous health and retirement benefits - because they are aligned with or married to influential people.

The personnel change is being made amid intense scrutiny of the liquor board.

State prosecutors have subpoenaed a wide range of records and documents from the state agency, including inspection files, agency cellular telephone records and complete liquor license files for Norma Jean's, a strip club on The Block, and Power Plant Live, a popular downtown entertainment venue that is managed by local developer David Cordish.

Fosler said the liquor board, which has turned over thousands of documents to prosecutors, was set to hand over any remaining files or reports yesterday in accordance with the grand jury subpoena that was delivered to Executive Secretary Nathan C. Irby Jr. on Aug. 17.

"It is my understanding that process will be complete today," Fosler said yesterday.

State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh has declined to comment on the subpoena.

Irby, a former state senator from East Baltimore who was appointed to head the administrative side of the liquor board in 1997, has referred all questions regarding the subpoena and other issues to Fosler.

Commissioners Edward Smith Jr. and Jeffrey B. Pope - who were appointed to the liquor board by Ehrlich in July - have designated Fosler as their spokesman.

Telephone calls to several liquor inspectors at their homes were not returned.

Daniels, the chief liquor board inspector, could not be reached for comment yesterday, but in previous interviews he said he was expecting the new policy and hoped that it would make tracking the work of the 18 full-time inspectors he oversees easier.

"I have some concerns about ... proper output," Daniels said, adding that there is "not a sufficient commitment" by some inspectors to get the job done. "Until some people are required to do something, they will opt not to," he said.

One of the inspectors who has another job is Lawrence H. Hall, whose wife, Vera Hall, is a former City Council member. He works in a barbershop, according to fellow employees at the Dolfield Avenue business.

Another is Michael J. Hyde, who runs a catering business with his brother, according to a Web site for the company.

And inspector Ralph Gilliam works for East Baltimore Community Corp., according to an employee at the group's office on Gay Street. A Web site for the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Committee, an umbrella community group set up to help revive deteriorated areas around the Johns Hopkins medical complex, lists Gilliam as an alternate board member and aide to state Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden.

McFadden did not return telephone calls to his district office seeking confirmation of Gilliam's employment. Neither did Marie Washington, president of East Baltimore Community Corp., an umbrella nonprofit group that represents 25 neighborhood groups.

None of the three inspectors returned telephone calls seeking comment.

Job descriptions for liquor inspectors at the city's personnel office make it clear that they are supposed to work a 40-hour week. But nothing in the job profile appears to bar an inspector from holding a second job.

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