Commission says council member did not violate county ethics laws


The Howard County Ethics Commission has found no violations of county ethics laws were committed by County Councilman David A. Rakes for failing to disclose a prior relationship with a man who applied for a liquor license, according to Jeff Starnes, the commission's executive secretary.

The man, Haluk "Alec" Kantar, was the east Columbia Democrat's political campaign treasurer in November 2004 when he came before the liquor board, which Rakes heads, seeking a license to operate the former Last Chance Saloon in Oakland Mills Village Center.

Rakes was the only board member to vote in favor of granting Kantar the license. Other board members felt Kantar had sought to deceive them by claiming that he had never held another liquor license and that he could not remember two instances of failing to appear in court. The board allowed Kantar to withdraw his application and sell his lease on the building. This month, the board approved a new licensee for the restaurant.

Starnes said the commission sent Rakes a letter about the situation, but claimed executive privilege in refusing to disclose its contents. Rakes also refused to make the letter available.

Rakes said he showed the commission bank documents that Kantar had resigned as his treasurer months before applying for the license, though Rakes never told other board members about their relationship. Rakes said he didn't know at the time that Kantar hadn't filed resignation papers with the state elections board. Kantar was listed as Rakes' treasurer in election board files until Feb. 8.

"I would not have chaired that meeting," Rakes said, if he knew that Kantar was still his official treasurer. Rakes has said his failure to mention the connection with Kantar was "an oversight" and an error on his part.

Rakes also said he now routinely asks if any liquor board member has any familiarity with an applicant as each case is called. In Howard, County Council members also sit as the county liquor board.

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