Baker shakes up scandal-plagued liquor board, names fresh slate of appointees

WASHINGTON — Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker has announced his nominees for the county’s troubled Board of License Commissioners.

The body, commonly referred to as the county’s liquor board, has been plagued by scandal stemming from ongoing federal bribery and conspiracy investigations. Baker’s announcement comes just a week after a former commissioner, 41-year-old David Son, pleaded guilty to bribery in federal court in Greenbelt.

The nominees tapped by Baker are: former Pepco executive Thomas Graham; Eric Bowman, a former captain and assistant commander with the Prince George’s County Police Department; local business owner Armando “Joe” Camacho; attorney SharRon Kelsey; and tech executive Ken Miles.

Three of the five have never served on the commission. Miles is a current member and Camacho has served on the commission before. All are subject to the confirmation by the Maryland Senate.

“It is imperative that the residents and businesses of Prince George’s County have faith in the County’s Board of Licenses Commissioners,” Baker said in his announcement, addressing the corruption that has plagued the board and efforts to overhaul it.

Baker succeeded in pushing for legislation that changed the way the members are appointed.

In the past, nominees would be appointed by the governor after candidates were nominated by state lawmakers and party officials.

Under the legislation passed this year, appointment power was given to the county executive. The local Senate delegation will holds hearings, and the full Senate has the power to approve or reject the nominees.

Sen. James Rosapepe, who represents part of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties, said the new process should help clean up the board operations.

Not only did the board need to stamp out corruption, but Rosapepe said it needed to be “professionalized” as well, with members required to have backgrounds in management, regulatory affairs or law enforcement.

“Over decades, the business in restaurants, liquor stores and hotels has grown as Prince George’s County has grown. And the county and the state had not updated their management and their oversight and their regulatory processes.”

Rosapepe said the nominees will get a review and a vote in the Maryland Senate during the next legislative session which begins in January. But that won’t be the end of their involvement.

“We’re going to monitor it. We’re going to make sure this works. We’ll continue oversight over this because we want to make sure the kind of corruption and the kind abuse that we saw recently does not reoccur.”

The multiyear, undercover probe that has ensnared liquor board officials, local business owners and state lawmakers, first became public earlier this year after the FBI raided the offices of the county’s liquor board in Largo.

Past problems with board members identified:

Former liquor board commissioner Anuj Sud resigned after being charged in an ongoing federal corruption probe. He was indicted on two counts of bribery in August and is awaiting trial.

Former Executive Director and commission member David Dae Sok Son pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bribery and obstruction of justice this month.

Former liquor board chairman Charles Caldwell had been asked to step down after he was arrested on a drunken driving charge during the opening of the MGM National Harbor casino. Caldwell has resigned and pleaded guilty to the charge plus a charge of reckless driving.

Politicians tied to corruption involving the liquor board included:

Former Prince George’s County Council member and former Maryland State Del. Will Campos is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to accepting up to $50,000 in kickbacks.

Former Maryland Del. Michael Vaughn is awaiting trial, accused of taking $100,000 from liquor store owners in exchange for favorable votes on related legislation in Annapolis.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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