Liquor Board update: Inspectors on ‘merit system’

Douglas Paige, acting executive secretary of the Baltimore City Liquor Board, gave citizens an update to the changes being made to his agency following the scathing findings of a 2011 state audit.

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He spoke at the Southeastern District Police Community Relations Council meeting at the Southeastern District police station Monday evening.

Paige took over the highest post of the Liquor Board’s administrative wing after Sam Daniel Jr.’s resignation in July.

“It’s not something I sought; it’s something that was handed to me,” said Paige, adding that he is also doing the work of the deputy secretary and the assistant to the executive secretary of the Liquor Board.

“Has it been hectic? Absolutely,” he said.

Paige said that recently, he has co-authored a corrective action plan responding to the audit that shoved the Liquor Board out into the spotlight.

“The audit came up with 24 findings, and we have come up with 24 action plans responding to those findings,” Daniels said.

The audit had mentioned—among many other things—that liquor inspectors had either failed to respond timely to 311 complaints or had not documented their responses. It also mentioned that based on the number of inspectors employed during the time of the audit, the number of inspections performed seemed low.

“We’ve been able to increase our inspections and our 311 call responses,” said Paige. “I think the state of the agency is in the right direction.”

Responding to a community member’s question, Paige said that the Office of Legislative Audits had yet made the Liquor Board’s corrective action plan public, but that he would share the plan if the community member came to his office.

Lieutenant William Colburn asked Paige when the fines for liquor offenses were last changed. Paige said that the fines, which are set by state legislation, have remained the same in the 24 years he has been with the agency: $500 for a first offense; $2,000 for a second; license suspension or revocation for a third offense.

A community member asked how liquor inspectors are appointed. Paige replied that inspectors are not appointed. While such a post was a “patronage position” in the past, he said, inspectors “are now on the city’s merit system,” and are hired through a process that includes a job posting, interviews, and civil service examinations.

While there were 12 inspectors at the time of the audit, there are now nine, Paige said.

The three Liquor Board commissioners, he added, are appointed by the governor with recommendations from the state senate.

The Liquor Board has a total of 24 full-time employees, Paige said, and four part-time employees. There are also the three commissioners—currently Harvey Jones, Elizabeth Smith, and Chairman Stephan Fogleman—and one appeals counsel.

by Erik Zygmont

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