Mark Fosler, a longtime Baltimore liquor inspector, is suing the state of Maryland and the Board of Liquor License Commissioners (BLLC) for $1. 7 million for discrimination and retaliation.
Fosler, 61, alleges in a complaint filed in Circuit Court earlier this week that he was denied the job of chief liquor inspector “because of his race – white – his age, and as an American with a Disability.”
As part of the complaint, Fosler’s attorney Edward Smith, Jr. (himself a former liquor board commissioner) asserts that the job went to a younger African-American man whom Fosler claims had no supervisory experience and little knowledge of the city’s liquor laws.
That man, Shelton Jones, a former Baltimore Police vice squad officer, is referred to throughout the complaint erroneously as “Sheldon Jones.”
Fosler, according to his complaint, suffered an illness last year that required surgery and time off work to recover.
Liquor Board Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth said yesterday that she had no comment on the pending litigation.
A former chairman of the liquor board during the Ehrlich administration, Fosler made an earlier complaint in March against his supervisors under the leadership of chairman Thomas Ward, who was appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley last June in the wake of a harsh state audit of the agency.
Fosler was one of eight inspectors to sign a letter of complaint to Bailey-Hedgepeth complaining they were being asked to inspect too many establishments and feared for their safety going into dangerous neighborhoods,
The lawsuit calls it “a subterfuge” that the BLLC “claimed Fosler was a part of a bad audit [of the Liquor Board] by the state of Maryland and was therefore not selected” for the chief inspector job.
The complaint describes Fosler as an exemplary employee.
Retaliation, Uncompensated Injury
Last December, after being passed over for the chief inspector’s job, Fosler reportedly filed a complaint with the Civil Rights Commission alleging that the liquor board retaliated against him.
After Jones was hired, Fosler was assigned to “a dangerous inspection area in West Baltimore at night with no weapon,” putting him in danger, the suit claims.
During the civil unrest, while on duty in West Baltimore on April 27, Fosler came to the aid of a police officer when a crowd attempted to take the officer’s weapon.
According to complaint documents, Fosler was beaten by the crowd and hospitalized as a result.
When he returned to work, the complaint states, Fosler was still assigned to the dangerous area (where the defendant in the assault had been released on bail), and was criticized and harassed by the BLLC for aiding the police officer.
Court documents also allege a civil conspiracy on the part of the three current commissioners – Harvey E. Jones, Dana Peterson Moore and Ward – and Chief Inspector Jones.
The four “combined to discriminate against Fosler and to cause him to be serous [sic] injured resulting in his either quitting his employment or [sic] killed by virtue of their power to place him in danger arbitrarily,” the complaint says.