The Montgomery County Council reversed itself yesterday and removed from the probe of the county Department of Liquor Control its own investigator who disclosed earlier this week that he had close contacts with key figures in the inquiry.
On Tuesday, following the voluntary disclosure by investigator Andrew Mansinne, the council said it had no intention of removing him.
Council President Scott Fosler said at a news conference yesterday that adverse publicity following Mansinne's disclosure plus a county personnel board memorandum saying that part of the investigation assigned to Mansinne belonged to that body led to the council's decision.
Mansinne's part of the investigation will go to the board and an independent auditing firm, Touche Ross and Co., that has a $124,500 contract to investigate allegations of favoritism in the county's liquor distribution.
The county council "genuinely wants a thorough job [on the investigation] so that people could believe that Department of Liquor Control is run in an effective and efficient way," Fosler said.
Mansinne, director of the council's Office of Legislative Oversight, was directed by the council at the beginning of September to look into allegations that liquor control officials have accepted gratuities from distributors in exchange for buying certain liquors.
Mansinne voluntarily filed a report with the council last week stating he had socialized and worked with Charles Buscher, County Executive Charles Gilchrist's adviser in the liquor control department and a former executive vice president of Schenley Industries Inc.
Buscher is a target of the investigation because of an allegation that Schenley Industries received an inordinantly large amount of business from the county.
Mansinne met with Buscher when he was liaison to a citizens study group of the Department of Liquor Control that Buscher chaired. In addition, they had a half-dozen social contacts.
Mansinne was going to look into an allegation that Gilchrist appointed Frank Orifici deputy director of the Department of Liquor Control because Orifici was Buscher's nephew by marriage.
Fosler said the council knew about Mansinne's contacts with Buscher and did not feel they would impair his ability to conduct a thorough and fair investigation.
The personnel board told the council Thursday that a violation of the merit system was in the board's jurisdiction and requested that Mansinne "curtail his activities in this area, so there will not be a duplication of effort."
Touche Ross and Co. will take up the remainder of Mansinne's investigation, into the practices of the liquor department and the implication of favoritism.
The personnel board said nothing abou looking into Leonard L. Colodny's charge that Gilchrist improperly offered him in January a job he had not applied for, as assistant chief of the county liquor stores division, a merit system position.
Colodny was the consultant originally hired by Gilchrist to investigate favoritism in liquor purchases. He was fired in August after complaining that Gilchrist aides asked him to rethink his figures showing Schenley getting a disproportionate amount of business.
Fosler said it was not clear if the personnel board would look into Colodny's charge. "Maybe the council will have to take it up," he said.