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Liquor Issues

Politicsby Fern Shen5:13 pmFeb 16, 20160

Pugh says she, too, has questions about Liquor Board commissioners

Responding to community complaints, city senators are discussing withholding confirmation of Hogan appointees.

Above: Catherine Pugh making a point at the Arena Players candidates’ forum.

Controversy over the Baltimore city Liquor Board moved into the mayor’s race this week, with candidate Catherine E. Pugh weighing in on efforts by the agency’s critics to squelch the three commissioners’ confirmation bid in Annapolis.

Sen. Pugh, who represents the 40th District and sits on the powerful Executive Nominations Committee, said she has serious questions about whether Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s three “recess appointments” should be confirmed by her committee.

“We’ve all gotten complaints from the community and until we get them [the commissioners] in here to talk with us, we will hold the line until we know more,” she said, speaking with The Brew last night.

Pugh had been so far silent about opposition that has already been joined by two others in the city delegation, Sen. Bill Ferguson (D-46th) and Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-43rd), who have said they have serious reservations about confirming the three appointees.

TOWN HALL MEETING WITH THE LIQUOR BOARD tomorrow Wednesday February 16, at 7 p.m. at the Baltimore City Public Safety Training Center, 3500 West Northern Parkway, Baltimore.

Without confirmation by the Senate, the terms of Liquor Board Chairman Benjamin A. Neil and commissioners Douglas E. Trotter and Elizabeth A. Hafey, appointed by Hogan in July, will lapse.

Community activists and the Community Law Center, which represents neighborhood associations in disputes over nuisance liquor establishments, have objected to the new commissioners, saying they are not following the law and have been too pro-licensee.

A call to Chairman Neil at the Liquor Board has not been returned.

“I’m getting calls [from people saying] that they shouldn’t be seated because they are not paying attention to the process,” she said. “Some residents are saying they’re not sure whether they’re really listening to people.”

Does she agree with them? Pugh said she needs to learn more about the commissioners and their actions.

“As it is right now,” she said, “I don’t see them being confirmed.”

Latin Palace Event

Pugh said she wants to put to rest questions raised about a recent endorsement event held in her honor at the Latin Palace dance club and bar in Fells Point.

The club’s proprietor, Jose Ribadeneira, came before the previous Liquor Board multiple times for violations, including several which yielded a two-month license suspension in 2014.

Pugh said the event was not a fundraiser and that it has no bearing on her position on Liquor Board matters.

“I was approached by them because they wanted to endorse me, we collected no money – that’s it,” Pugh said.

In a campaign press release, Pugh described the event as an endorsement announcement by Senator Victor Ramirez, “the only Latino member of the Maryland Senate.” Among those also endorsing Pugh were Ribadeneira, Gilberto de Jesus, Nicholas Ramos and Edwin Estrada, the announcement said.

The candidate said events like the endorsement party and campaign contributions do not affect the positions she takes as an elected official.

“There is no quid pro quo with Catherine Pugh,” she said.

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