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Welch kept on liquor board despite handgun conviction

THE BALTIMORE SUN

William A. "Pete" Welch Jr., convicted last year of firing a handgun during a post-election dispute, has been reappointed to the Baltimore liquor board.

Welch's reappointment was announced yesterday in the General Assembly as part of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's "green-bag" patronage appointments to various positions statewide.

Sen. Clarence W. Blount, a powerful West Baltimore Democrat, sponsored Welch's reappointment.

"He got into a little difficulty, but it didn't have anything to do with his job and the office he occupies," Blount said of Welch. "I judge him merely on his ability to do the job that he's appointed to. ... That's the only thing that ought to be at issue here."

Welch, an accountant, could not be reached for comment.

His reappointment is in keeping with the long-standing tradition of gubernatorial selections based on political favoritism and patronage.

"The governor honored the request for a local appointment," said Michael Morrill, Glendening's spokesman.

Welch, 47, is the son of West Baltimore City Councilwoman Agnes B. Welch, who leads the Baltimore City Democratic Central Committee.

David F. Tufaro, former Republican candidate for mayor, said there are most likely many other people qualified to sit on the liquor board. He said the appointment represents the downside of one-party politics.

"I don't care if it's Republicans or Democrats, with one party in power and no one to challenge it, they can get away with improper behavior," Tufaro said.

"I think people do make mistakes, and we have every reason to forgive people, but it doesn't necessarily mean we reward them by giving them a position," he said. "They can go on and do other things besides holding a position of public trust."

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

The incident stemmed from an argument between Welch and one of his mother's campaign workers on the day after the September 1999 primary election.

During an argument over how much time the worker had put in on Election Day - and whether she was owed $40 in "walk-around" money, a stipend prohibited by state law - Welch pulled out a handgun and fired a shot at the ground.

An opinion by the Maryland attorney general's office said Welch was not subject to removal under state law because his convictions involved conduct unrelated to his duties.

Welch is one of three members of the Baltimore Board of Liquor License Commissioners, appointed by the governor for two-year terms on the recommendation of the city's state senators. The part-time position pays $18,000 a year.

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