Convictions no grounds for barring Welch from liquor board, state rules; Attorney general's office says crimes, job not related


Despite recent criminal convictions stemming from his firing of a handgun, William A. Welch is not subject to removal under state law from his position on the city liquor board, the Maryland attorney general's office said in an opinion issued yesterday.

State statutes governing removal of officials for misconduct in office do not apply in Welch's case because his convictions involved conduct outside his job, did not relate to his "public duties and responsibilities" and were for misdemeanors, not felonies, the opinion said.

The opinion by Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Israel, issued in response to an inquiry by Baltimore state Sen. Joan Carter Conway, said it was unclear whether Welch could be impeached by the legislature because of his convictions.

Last week, Welch, 46, pleaded guilty in Baltimore Circuit Court to second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and discharging a firearm. He was given a three-year suspended sentence and three years' probation.

The incident stemmed from an argument, the day after September's primary, between Welch and a campaign worker for his mother, Agnes B. Welch, the City Council vice president. During the argument over how much time the worker had put in on Election Day, William Welch pulled out a handgun and fired a shot at the ground, court papers said.

Welch is one of three Baltimore liquor board commissioners, who are appointed by the governor for two-year terms on the recommendation of the city's state senators. The commissioners decide on the renewal and transfer of liquor licenses, and can levy fines or close bars and package-goods stores found to have violated state laws on the sale of alcohol.

First appointed in 1997 and reappointed a year ago, Welch makes $18,000 a year in the part-time position.

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