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Minkin leaves Baltimore County liquor license board

Tom Minkin saw the writing on the wall after he saw the writing in the letter. Minkin had refused to step down last week as chairman of the Baltimore County Board of Liquor License Commissioners when called to do so by Fred Homan, the county’s administrative officer.

When Minkin received a letter after Monday’s regularly scheduled hearing from new County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, accepting Minkin’s resignation from the board and thanking him for his service, however, he knew what he had to do.

“To the victor go the spoils. I understand that,” Minkin said Monday afternoon, after following the letter’s script. “The county executive is entitled to appoint his people.”

Minkin, one of Peter Angelos’ original law associates, had sat on the board since 2003 and served as chairman for four-and-a-half years. His latest two-year term was to expire in July. He will be replaced as chairman by Charles E. Klein, an insurance agent and treasurer of Kamentez’s campaign. Klein was appointed to a seat vacated by Barbara B. Kernan, who is taking another job in the county government. Kenneth Dansicker, the third member of the board, will remain on the panel.

While Minkin joked Monday afternoon that he felt like he was at his own funeral during the meeting — with lawyers there praising him and his work — he was serious in one of his final statements on the liquor board: Kamenetz should appoint another lawyer to the three-person panel.

“He will be tying one hand behind the board’s back” if a lawyer is not appointed, Minkin said. “A lawyer can get to the nub of the issues.”

Donald I. Mohler III, Kamenetz’s chief of staff, said the county executive has “some folks in mind” for the opening but has not yet filled it. Mohler noted that there is no requirement that a lawyer sit on a liquor board.

“Based on the issues before the board, we’re looking for capable men and women with varied backgrounds with a dedication to public service,” he said.

A review of liquor boards across Maryland shows that, with Minkin’s departure, only five of 24 jurisdictions have a lawyer as a member. (How liquor board members are appointed varies jurisdictionally as well. In some places the local government selects liquor board members, while in others the governor makes the selections.) Many liquor boards have counsel present during hearings, should legal issues arise, according to lawyer Charles E. Brooks, who has appeared before liquor boards across the state for more than 40 years.

J. Steven Wise, who represents the Baltimore County Licensed Beverage Association, said a lawyer on a liquor board is helpful in navigating the detailed statutes governing alcohol.

“Having a lawyer on the board may cause the board to ask questions a board without a lawyer may not ask,” said Wise, of Schwartz, Metz & Wise P.A. in Baltimore, whose firm also lobbies for the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association in the General Assembly.

But Brooks, a Towson solo practitioner, said board members, no matter their background, are building upon groundwork laid by the members before them.

“They become familiar with the practices and procedures that have been adopted over the years,” said Brooks, a Towson solo practitioner.

Both Wise and Brooks praised Minkin’s time on the board in Baltimore County. For his part, Minkin said he has no hard feelings and wishes the best for the board going forward. He is worried, however, that the quality of the board’s work will suffer without a lawyer as a member, along with the loss Monday of the board’s longtime administrator, George Abendschoen, and chief inspector, Gerard Kilduff.

“I just think we had a good thing going, and now it’s demolished,” he said, noting the loss of institutional knowledge.

Mohler said Abendschoen and Kilduff will likely be replaced by one person as part of Kamenetz’s effort to streamline and consolidate the county government.

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