Poll payoff case filed

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A Baltimore City liquor commissioner has been charged with making illegal cash payments to poll workers to help his mother - a City Council member - on primary election day.

A criminal information filed this week in District Court charges that William A. Welch, 47, son of Councilwoman Agnes B. Welch, a 4th District Democrat, made the illegal payments Sept. 14 last year, the day of the city's primary election.

Such charges are rare. The election violation is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail or a $1,000 fine. A trial is set for Sept. 13.

The one-paragraph charge does not provide any details on the payments, and state Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli declined to comment. Welch and his mother did not respond to a request for comment.

David B. Irwin, William Welch's attorney, said he was hopeful the matter could be resolved before the case comes to trial.

"I think this is based on a misunderstanding, and I hope we can resolve it," he said.

The information states that Welch, "while acting on behalf of the Agnes Welch campaign for city council did directly pay a sum of money in return for walk-around services performed by poll workers on the day of the primary election."

The one-count information was signed by Montanarelli and assistant state prosecutor Isabel M. Cummings.

Under state law, it is illegal to pay Election Day workers for handing out campaign literature or performing other election services.

Welch has pleaded guilty to another charge stemming from an incident with a campaign worker in the city primary election last year.

The worker, Teresa Hamer, said that Welch refused to pay her the $40 she had been promised for working the polls. She told police that when she confronted Welch at the councilwoman's campaign headquarters in the 2900 block of Edmondson Ave., he pulled a gun and fired a shot at her.

Welch, through his attorney, denied shooting at the woman, and said the shot was fired at the ground to restore order.

On Feb. 11, Welch pleaded guilty to charges of reckless endangerment, second-degree assault and discharging a firearm.

In return for the guilty plea, prosecutors in the state's attorneys office dropped charges of attempted murder and illegal possession of a handgun.

Welch was given a three-year suspended sentence and three years probation. He also was ordered to forfeit the gun.

After the sentencing, the state attorney general's office issued an opinion stating that despite the guilty plea, Welch was not subject to removal from his job on the city Board of Liquor License Commissioners.

In the opinion, Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Israel concluded that since the charges did not relate to Welch's duties as a liquor commissioner, he was not subject to removal.

First appointed as a commissioner in 1997 by the governor, Welch was reappointed to a second term in the $18,000 a year post last year.

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