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Harford liquor board preparing to hire new general manager

The Harford County Liquor Control Board plans to have a new agency administrator hired within 30 days, who would have the title of general manager.

The five-member board voted unanimously, following a closed executive session Wednesday afternoon, to change the title of the position from administrator to general manager and advertise that the position is open, according to board chair Sheryl Davis Kohl.

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The person who fills that role will succeed Pilar Gracia, who is no longer with the liquor board as of Monday. Gracia had been with the agency since she was hired as board counsel in 2008 and took on the dual role of board counsel and administrator in 2015. Those two roles were separated last month — Baltimore County-based attorney Amy Finneran, who was hired as board counsel in May, will continue to serve in that capacity, Kohl said Wednesday.

Organizers of drag events in Harford County are hopeful that shows will be scheduled again at local establishments.

The board chairwoman said earlier this week that Gracia’s departure was a personnel matter and could not be discussed further, although she stressed it was “absolutely not” related to recent allegations that operators of several Harford County establishments canceled planned drag shows because they feared losing their liquor licenses over those shows, following discussions with LCB officials they described as threatening.

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There was a strong outcry from the local LGBTQ community and its supporters, but liquor board leaders and the Maryland LGBT Chamber of Commerce have since released a joint statement indicating the controversy had been a matter of a miscommunication, that officials did not intend to single out drag shows but wanted to remind licensees of rules that govern events that could involve displays of sexuality or nudity.

The executive session Wednesday involved the board’s plans to fill the position of general manager.

Walter “Butch” Tilley III, the board’s vice chair, noted the title “administrator” has been used historically in Harford County, but “general manager” is the term used in state statutes regarding the person responsible for the day-to-day operations of liquor control agencies.

“It’s just administrative cleanup,” Tilley said of the title change.

Pilar Gracia, who for many years served a dual role as administrator and lawyer for the Harford County Liquor Control Board, is no longer with the board.

Kohl noted that “we have an excellent staff here” at the Liquor Control Board, which is headquartered in downtown Bel Air. Existing staff members will handle operations while the new general manager is hired.

“The current staff ... in place will handle all inquiries, and [the agency] will be open for business, operating as usual,” Kohl said.

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