Delegate Kathleen Dumais

Democrat, Maryland House of Delegates District 15

Union Chief Blasts Franchot, Frick Over Liquor Privatization

Written by  Brianna Shea

The political debate over Montgomery County’s monopoly on liquor distribution recently reached a fever pitch when the president of a local union lashed out at State Comptroller Peter Franchot and Del. Bill Frick (D-16).

Frick has introduced legislation that would end the county’s monopoly and Franchot supports the legislation.

Gino Renne, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994 and Municipal and County Government employees requested in a letter to the legislature Frick be investigated for ethics violations and hinted Franchot should be for his support of the legislation as well.

“The absolute last thing that Comptroller Franchot will accept is a lecture in public ethics from the likes of Gino

Renne,” said Andrew Friedson, spokesperson for Franchot. “This is yet another desperate Hail Mary from those

who’ve lost the argument clinging to a status quo opposed by the vast majority of Montgomery County residents and a senseless distraction from the real issue: that the County’s Prohibition-era monopoly is broken and outdated; itoffers lackluster customer service and inadequate product selection; and it levies a tax that County consumers andsmall businesses don’t want and can’t afford.”

On Nov. 23, Renne, sent a letter he wrote to the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics requesting the committee investigate Frick on the grounds of a conflict of interest.

The complaint comes after Renne says he found out Frick and his wife, Bethany Medford Frick, own between $20,000 and $30,000 worth of stocks in Diageo North America Inc. and Beam Inc.

Both companies distribute wine, spirits and liquor.

“The entrenched interests can’t defend this broken system on the merits, so they are trying to use intimidation and

baseless personal attacks to preserve the status quo,” Frick said. “The voters deserve to be heard.”

Franchot supports Frick’s efforts to end the alcohol monopoly due to high costs, poor selection and poor customer

service from the Department of Liquor Control, Friedson said.

“Any question regarding Delegate Frick’s motives or character beyond actually listening to and looking out for the

best interests of his constituents and of Montgomery County consumers is an outrageous and offensive distraction

from an important public policy issue which doesn’t deserve the dignity of a response.”

State Del. Kirill Reznik (D-39) says Renne is sending a message to the delegation that he will go after anyone who opposes him.

Reznik said the investigation is “a tool for intimidation” and to cause fear.

“Throwing around accusations and filing ethics complaints is a serious charge,” said Reznik.

Reznik said Frick was not hiding his affiliation with Diageo when he filed his annual income and debt service papers

to the committee.

Del. Kathleen Dumais (D-16), also a co-sponsor of Frick’s bill, said the bill does not eliminate the DLC,

but opens up competition in the county.

She said Frick responded appropriately to the allegation of the conflict of interest.

“He believes he filed appropriate finance documents,” said Dumais.

She said every delegate must turn in finance disclosures and Frick did not hide his finances.

The committee will look at the complaint and will determine if rules were broken, Dumais said.

“I thought that Montgomery County should not be in the liquor business,” said Reznik,, a co-sponsor of the bill.

Renne said he wants to know the relationship between Frick and Franchot and the liquor industry as the proposed legislation could eliminate 350 jobs.

Franchot advocated privatizing liquor in Worcester County, which the General Assembly did in 2011.

Renne said the Worcester County decision cost taxpayers money and has left 40 DLC employees without jobs.

He said this issue is too complicated and “it’s not as simple as let the voters decide.”

“These guys are both political opportunists and don’t care about who they hurt along the way,” Renne said.

County Executive Ike Leggett and eight of the nine County Council members oppose Frisk’s legislation.

The County could lose between $30 million and $35 million if the bill passes.

To counter the loss of revenue the Montgomery County Council has offered compromise legislation that will allow the privatization of special orders of alcohol while the county continues its monopoly on alcohol distribution.

Dumais says she does not believe the compromise will work because distributors cannot afford to deliver just one case.

State Sen. Jaime Raskin (D-20) said he will not comment on a pending investigation.

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