Board Member Resigns Over Corner Liquors Ruling

By Guy Leonard, The County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md.—The owners of the Corner Liquors store on Shangri-La Drive in Lexington Park recently faced the possibility of losing their liquor license entirely after a previous police investigation alleged that the store trafficked in drug paraphernalia used for smoking crack cocaine.

Instead the owners received no fine and no license suspension because the three out of five members of the St. Mary's County Alcohol Beverage Board who heard their case July 14 could not come to an agreement on what the punishment should be.

Because of that Thomas Sacks, the board’s vice chair, resigned immediately following the meeting, he told The County Times on Monday.

Sacks was the lone vote of the three board members who advocated total revocation of the store’s license, but board member William Cullins wanted a lighter penalty that would only suspend the license for 30 days with a $1,000 fine.

The board’s attorney told board chairman Moses Saldana that he could only vote to break a tie and so was not able to put in a motion of his own, though he asked Cullins to carry a motion he recommended for a 90 day suspension and a $1,000 fine.

Sacks walked out of the meeting after saying he would not second a motion for a penalty less than total revocation of the license.

“I told Cullins he should have resigned,” Sacks said, because he failed to support the motion to completely revoke the license.

Sacks said the storeowner admitted to the sale of drug paraphernalia in the hearing and that he knew that the glass pipe would be used for smoking crack cocaine.

“We’re going to let a nuisance like that continue? I don’t think so,” Sacks said, explaining that he felt he could no longer serve on the alcohol board because it did not enforce laws.

Sacks pointed to another infraction committed by Corner Liquors in which they sold alcohol to an underage customer but only received a $1,000 fine.

Sacks said he wanted to see their license suspended for that infraction but it did not happen.

“They’re not holding people responsible, they’re not doing their jobs,” Sacks said criticizing the other members of the board.

He said that since some members of the liquor board are business owners themselves they are reluctant to prosecute fines or suspensions.

“They’re going to lean towards the businesses,” Sacks, a personnel manager at the county sheriff’s office said. “They’re not holding them accountable.”

Liquor board chair Moses Saldana said Wednesday that he did not believe Sacks’ choice to leave the meeting caused the business to receive no fine, since the three members were deadlocked anyway.

Saldana said that he believed his recommendation was a compromise, even though it was really not enough in his opinion.

“I was not happy with the outcome, their license should have been revoked completely,” Saldana said.

Law officers who worked on the investigation to uncover the sales of drug paraphernalia said that the non-decision was an example of the system breaking down at a critical point.

“Up to the point where the case went to the alcohol board the system worked,” said Capt. Daniel Alioto, commander of the vice/narcotics division. “They don’t have any consistency and that takes away from their purpose.”

Alioto said that the purveyors of the drug paraphernalia kept it in a hidden place at their store and would only make it known for sale to those they believed were looking to smoke narcotics.

Alioto said Corner Liquors’ actions pointed to both greed and a lack of respect for the law.

For the liquor board, Alioto said, he believed they still had a chance to serve the county consistently.

“I hope the alcohol board at some point figures it out,” Alioto said.

Cullins did not respond to an e-mail request for comment on this article.

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