Two members of a citywide organization that favors tougher liquor laws and three members of a group representing hundreds of bar owners are among appointees to a task force to determine whether Baltimore's state senators should scrap the decades-old patronage system at the liquor board.
The task force hopes to hold the first of a series of public hearings by the end of this month and is expected to make recommendations by early December -- in time for legislation to be introduced in next year's General Assembly.
"I would be hopeful it's not a smokescreen, that the panel will be able to address some of the concerns the community has with how these [liquor] establishments are regulated," said Bev Thomas, one of two members of the Baltimore Citywide Liquor Coalition named yesterday.
Robert E. Haynes, one of three members of the Maryland United Licensees' Beverage Association, said he had "definite opinions" about what reforms need to be made.
"I think an inspector ought to be a career, not a political appointment," said Mr. Haynes, co-owner of the Sportsmen's Lounge in West Baltimore.
The task force was created last May after a story in The Sun detailed conflicts of interest at the Board of Liquor License Commissioners, a state agency whose employees have been political appointees of state senators for more than 60 years.
The article showed that the board's commissioners and inspectors regulate the same bars and restaurants that contribute to the senators' political campaigns, with some even soliciting campaign contributions from those businesses.
Lawyer Peter D. Ward, a former city judge and city and state prosecutor, was named in May as chairman of the panel.
In announcing the 10-member task force yesterday, State Sen. John A. Pica, chairman of the city's Senate delegation, said he expected the panel to take a thorough look at liquor board personnel policies.
"Communities need to have full confidence in the board that their neighborhood interests are being protected," Senator Pica said.
Other beverage association members named to the task force are Wes Ivey and Daisy Lee Jackson. The other liquor coalition member is Mary Lou Kline.
Also appointed were community activists Clyde Billings, Anne Boyce, William H. McNeal Jr., Sandy Sparks and Sylvia Williams.