The consultant hired by Montgomery County to investigate charges of favoritism in its Department of Liquor Control tried to resign yesterday, charging that top aides of County Executive Charles Gilchrist have interfered with his investigation.
Leonard I. Colodny, the consultant, said the officials asked him to revise sales figures so that Schenley Industries Inc., a New York-based liquor company, did not appear to receive a disproportionately large amount of the county's liquor business. He also charged that they tried to stop him between Schenley and the department.
"I'm not being allowed to do my job," Colodny said. "Every time I look to the area of Schenley I get phone calls from Gerry Evans [an aide to Gilchrist] or Bob Wilson [the county's chief administrative officer] asking me to change something or stop looking into something."
Gilchrist angrily denied that anyone had interfered with the investigation and said he had not yet decided whether to release Colodny from his contract.
"It disgusts me that these charges are being made," Gilchrist said. "This is the orderly process by which we raise questions [about the report]."
Yesterday's charges and countercharges were the latest development in a growing controversy over the Department of Liquor Control, which administers the only county monopoly on the wholesale and retail sale of liquor, beer and wine in the country.
The close connection between present and former employes of the department and the liquor industry, particularly Schenley, has been a focus of attention. aLast month The Washington Post detailed a number of cases of conflict of interest that resulted from a "revolving door" between the department and distillers that sell liquor to the county.
The main beneficiary has been Schenley, whose former executive vice president in charge of sales to government-controlled jurisdictions, Charles Buscher, once served as director of the department and more recently has advised Gilchrist on liquor policy.
Colodny, a former Prince George's County liquor distributor, was hired as a consultant last May to look into reports that the county favored Schenley in liquor purchases.
Many of the reports had been prompted by the appointment of Frank Orifici, a Schenley salesman, as the Department of Liquor Control's deputy director. Orifici is related by marriage to Buscher.
In July, Colodny released a report showing that Schenley gets 10.46 percent of the county's liquor business, nearly a third more than it receives from each of the 18 states where the state governments control liquor purchasing.
Shortly after submitting the report, according to Colodny, Evans phoned him at home and said, "I think you should rethink the Schenley figures."
Evans, who admits he "questioned" Colodny's numbers, said he merely wanted Colodny to add cases of wine with cases of liquor, instead of adding each separately, as Colodny had done. Colodny refused to change his figures, saying in was "standard industry practice" to compute liquor and wine sales separately.
Computing them together, Colodny said, would have shown that Schenley was getting less business from the county than it actually was getting.
At a news conference yesterday, Colodny also cited the following incidents of what he called interference:
On July 7, Wilson again asked Colodny to change the Schenley figures. Colodny said he refused.
On May 20, two hours after Colodny had talked to D.C. liquor store owners about alleged kickback practices and about the amount of Schenley liquor sold in Montgomery County, Colodny received a phone call from Gilchrist's aide, Gerry Evans. Evans reportedly said, "Len, we're getting calls today about you. They say you worked for Schenley and that you gave free goods away. They say that you kick back money to retailers."
Colodny, who has never worked for Schenley, told Evans the allegations were "ridiculous."
In an interview yesterday, Evans said he called Colodny that day because he thought it was his "function to pass on these complaints to Lenny."
On May 16, one day after Colodny visited county police to learn about the results of a police investigation into dealings between Schenley and the Department of Liquor Control, Colodny received a telephone call from Wilson telling him to keep away from the police department."There's nothing in your contract that says you should initiate an investigation with the police," he quoted Wilson as saying.
Wilson could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Yesterday, Colodny also released a report showing that the Deparment of Liquor Control has encouraged sales of a Scotch made by Schenley, J. W. Dant, by refusing to purchase good lower-priced brands of Scotch for the county's restaurants and country clubs.