Audit Faults City Liquor Board

Time, Attendance Records Not Kept Properly, It Says

November 27, 2009|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,brent.jones@baltsun.com

A recent city audit of the Baltimore liquor board found that the panel did not maintain accurate payroll attendance records, including several instances where full-time inspectors had signed in to work but failed to log out, according to the 15-page report.

The report also found that liquor employees were not logging accurate days and hours while working the late-night 311 complaint response phone lines.

The audit covered fiscal years June 2005 to June 2007, a period primarily under the jurisdiction of the previous three-person liquor board. Executive Secretary Samuel T. Daniels, who worked for the liquor board during the time of the audit, said the board has hired an office assistant whose responsibilities include completing personnel leave slips for vacation, personal and compensatory time.

Daniels said the new assistant has worked for the liquor board for about a year, and although there are still inspectors who do not always fill in time sheets, "the overall issue with regard to basic timekeeping has been rectified."

The Board of Estimates will review the audit and the liquor board's response on Dec. 9.

Liquor inspectors investigate calls from citizens placed to the 311 line. The calls frequently involve complaints about city bars and restaurants who break liquor laws, such as selling to underage patrons or allowing live entertainment in places not zoned for such activity.

Inspectors also do their own investigations and write up reports that come before the liquor board, which holds weekly hearings and administers fines, suspensions and revocations of licenses.

The liquor board regulates the sale, storage and distribution of alcoholic beverages in Baltimore. Although it is a state agency, revenue it collects through licensing and fines goes to the city. Made up of Chairman Stephan Fogleman, Elizabeth C. Smith and Harvey Jones, the board has 14 inspectors.

The audit cites a specific incident when full-time inspectors assigned to the late shift generally worked to respond to nighttime complaints and were on duty or on call for seven nights in a row, followed by seven nights off. The audit says that in order to account for the proper number of working nights each 10-day pay period, three of those 10 nights were treated as a type of leave. If the inspectors actually worked the three nights, it was considered compensatory time. But no official records were kept to account for those nights, either as unofficial leave or as compensatory time, the report says.

Last week, Daniels met with city officials and outlined further steps the board has taken to comply with the city regulation that liquor board employees work a 36.6-hour week. The liquor board has shortened the number of hours by about 35 per week that the 311 complaint line will be manned by a liquor inspector.

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