The Montgomery County Council refused yesterday to consider appointing a new consultant to investigate the county Department of Liquor Control despite evidence that the present investigator has had close contact with key figures in the investigation.
Council member Rose Crenca suggested yesterday that the council "look elsewhere" for an investigator, but the other four council members present did not like her suggestion.
"I think the council and I hope the public will have the highest degree of confidence that the report was thorough and that it was objective," council president Scott Fosler said after Crenca made her suggestion. Other council members made similar statements, both before and after Crenca suggested replacing the current investigator.
The current investigator, Andrew Mansinne, director of the council's Office of Legislative Oversight, filed documents with the council showing that he has taken at least two trips with Charles Buscher, County Executive Charles Gilchrist's advisor on the Department of Liquor Control and a former executive vice president for the liquor firm Schenley Industries Inc. In addition, Mansinne helped Buscher write reports on the Department of Liquor Control and attended a number of social functions with him.
Buscher is a target of the investigation because of a previous consultant's allegation that the liquor company Buscher worked for received an inordinately large amount of business from the county Department of Liquor Control.
The council also has directed Mansinne to investigate allegations that Buscher's nephew by marriage, Frank Orifici, received a job in the county liquor department because Buscher used his influence with Gilchrist, Gilchrist's aid Jerry Evans, and director of the county liquor department Robert Passmore. Mansinne has said he saw Orifici socially on at least two occasions, at a party and a funeral.
In documents filed with the council on Friday, Mansinne described a number of contracts with Buscher: a trip to Annapolis with Buscher to consult with State Comptroller Louis Goldstein to discuss taxation of liquor; a luncheon that his son gave for Buscher; a party given by Buscher at the Potomac Inn that he attended, and an occasion when he heard Buscher explain to County Attorney Paul McGuckian that he had pleaded guilty to illegally inducing state officials in West Virginia to buy Schenley liquor.
Previously, in September, Mansinne told the council that he went to Buscher's wife's funeral, that he and his wife visited Buscher on Christmas Eve as a "condolence call," that he attended a party at Buscher's home, and that he accompanied Buscher and Gilchrist on a trip to Richmond to "inspect the Richmond warehouse of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverages Control Board."
At yesterday's council meeting, council member Neal Potter accused reporters of "creating controversy" about Mansinne's ability to be objective, while council member Ruth Spector bemoaned the "false perceptions" that the press had created about Mansinne's objectivity.
Council member Crenca perceived the matter differently. "If people perceive something," Crenca said, "it's because they've heard something that leads them to a perception."