Montgomery County Police Chief Bernard Cooke said yesterday that his department's investigators acted properly in 1977 when they decided to drop an investigation into possible favoritism and bribery in the county's liquor control department without prosecuting anybody.
After reviewing the investigation, Crooke said there had been evidence of "misconduct . . . that bordered on criminal activity -- specifically bribery -- but there was not enough information available for successful prosecution."
County police investigated allegations that Schenley Distillers had used gifts of baseball tickets and other favors to improperly influence Ken Dragan, the liquor board's deputy director and later acting director. The police dropped efforts to pursue possible criminal prosecutions in the case after Dragon resigned, reportedly because of the investigation. At the time Dragan cited "personal reasons" for leaving the job.
The 1977 investigation and subsequent decision not to seek charges in the case came to light earlier this year after a new examination of the board was ordered by County Executive Charles Gilchrist. A preliminary report of that examination conducted by Leonard Colodony, an outside consultant hired by Gilchrist was doing a "disproportionate" business with the county-run liquor stores despite the limited selling power of many Schenley products.
Gilchrist recently fired Colodony after the consultant charged that the county executive's aides had tried to force him to change his report.
The Department of Liquor Control has become a source of political embarrassment for Gilchrist because of his close ties to Charles Buscher, a former Schenley vice president who has served in the Gilchrist administration.
Crooke decided to review the investigation filed earlier this month after the controversy over Colodny's report sparked renewed interest in the matter. Crooke was not police chief in 1977 when the investigation was conducted.