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Liquor post patronage described; Senator testifies she endorsed candidates of ally for city board; 2 former officials on trial; Panel secretary tells of gifts received, licenses renewed


State Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, the powerful chairwoman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, testified yesterday that she dutifully endorsed all the job candidates of a political ally, finding patronage posts for them as liquor board employees in Baltimore.

Hoffman, testifying in Baltimore City Circuit Court, said she never met the job candidates recommended by William J. Madonna Jr., a former state delegate. But, Hoffman said, she submitted their names anyway and they won the jobs.

She testified the second day of the trial of Madonna and Anthony J. Cianferano, the former chief inspector for the Baltimore City Liquor Board. The two are charged with bribery and running a 10-year conspiracy to thwart enforcement of state liquor laws. Prosecutors allege a key element of that conspiracy was controlling the appointment of liquor inspectors.

Hoffman, who described Cianferano and Madonna as "inseparable friends," acknowledged it was her recommendation that led to Cianferano's appointment as chief inspector. She said she pushed, though unsuccessfully, to have Madonna appointed to the top job at the liquor board.

The senator said she agreed to let Madonna recommend people for the liquor board jobs in return for his help winning votes in her district.

The jobs, which Hoffman said nobody else wanted, were "a way for Billy to show he was more important" than his political rivals in Hampden.

In other testimony yesterday, the deputy executive secretary of the liquor board acknowledged that she and other employees were regular recipients of liquor and party platters provided by the owners of liquor licenses, their lawyers and liquor wholesalers.

Under questioning by Samuel Blibaum, Cianferano's lawyer, Jane Schroeder, the longtime deputy executive secretary, said that deli platters were often provided to the liquor board during the holiday season by the owners of licensed liquor establishments. She acknowledged she personally was the recipient of bottles of liquor provided periodically by an attorney representing liquor wholesalers and manufacturers.

Asked by Blibaum if the acceptance of such gifts would violate board regulations, Schroeder said, "Probably, under a strict interpretation."

Schroeder was questioned at length by Assistant State Prosecutor Thomas M. McDonough about the renewal of liquor licenses and the handling of enforcement actions involving a bar Madonna once owned on Greenmount Avenue.

Schroeder said she discovered on April 30, 1996, that six new licenses that hadn't been paid for were not in the office as was normal practice. After being contacted by Schroeder, Cianferano returned the licenses to the office. Liquor board records presented by McDonough showed five of the bars had ties to Madonna. One was due to be taken over by Cianferano's two brothers.

She said that the next day Cianferano and Madonna appeared together at the liquor board and Cianferano told her "the licenses were all taken care of." In fact, Schroeder said, the license for Madonna's bar was not paid for until two weeks later. The bar was fined later for not meeting the renewal deadline.

The deputy executive secretary was questioned about liquor board records of a meeting allegedly held at the liquor board office after an incident in which two patrons of Madonna's Greenmount Avenue bar got into a fight.

The records, Schroeder testified, showed that Madonna and Cianferano were present at the conference, but Madonna's signature acknowledging his attendance contained a misspelling. Madonna's lawyer, Gary S. Bernstein, conceded later that it appeared Cianferano had signed Madonna's name, albeit incorrectly.

Bernstein said that Madonna did not need to show up since the fight took place outside the bar and no liquor law violations occurred.

"Wouldn't a phone conference have been OK?" asked Bernstein.

"That was not the way the procedure was set up," Schroeder replied.

Bernstein and Blibaum used Schroeder's appearance to raise questions about another key prosecution witness, former liquor inspector Donald Harlow. Schroeder testified that records showed Harlow was referred to an employee assistance program, but then failed to show up for counseling appointments.

Pub Date: 1/07/99

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