One night about two weeks ago, while Maryland state Del. Paula Hollinger was watching television in her Baltimore home, she learned that the Montgomery County personnel board had hired a lawyer to investigate whether Montgomery officials had improperly offered her brother, Leonard I. Colodny, three merit jobs.
The name of the lawyer hired to investigate the charges was Steven Shawe.
Hollinger phoned her brother. "Did you know they hired your cousin as the attorney for the personnel board?" Hollinger asked Colodny.
Colodny said he didn't even know there were any Shawes in the family.
The next morning, Colodny phoned his mother, Ethel Colodny, a Democratic precinct chairman in eastern Montgomery County. He asked her whether she had ever heard of anyone named Steven Shawe.
"Of course," said Ethel Colodny who told her son that Shawe's mother had gone to his niece's bat mitzvah and that "his mother is a Colodny. You're cousins."
Colodny was somewhat stunned by the news. It was the second time within months that an investigator in the events that have come to be known as "Liquorgate" has had close ties to a person he was hired to investigate.
In October, county official Andrew Mansinne, who was investigating Colodny's charges that the County Department of Liquor Control has shown favoritism in its purchasing practices, told the County Council that he had had about a dozen meetings with a key target of his investigations, Charles Buscher. Buscher is one of Gilchrist's advisers and a former executive for a liquor company.
The council at first refused to take Mansinne off the investigation, but later removed him from it. Yesterday, the council hired a lawyer to replace Mansinne. The lawyer is Robert P. Trout, who works for a Washington law firm and will help the auditing firm hired by the council, Touche Ross, in its investigation of the liquor department.
Colodny, who refused to cooperate with Mansinne when he learned about his friendship with Buscher, does not think that his cousin should conduct an investigation that involves him.
"He may find that the Gilchrist administration violated merit [job] rules but the Gilchrist people would come back and say, 'Of course, he's Colodny's cousin.'"
Shawe and two other personnel board investigators interviewed Colodny at his home on Friday. Colodny said it was the first time he had met Shawe, a second cousin.
After Colodny's mother told him that the investigator was his cousin, Colodny phoned County Councilmember Rose Crenca who phoned personnel board Chairman Harriet Bernstein to tell her the news. Bernstein, who could not be reached for comment, was not worried about Colodny's relationship to the investigator, according to Crenca.
But Crenca said that the Council plans to decide whether Shawe should remain an investigator. "This is crazy," said Crenca. "They went to Baltimore to find an investigator and they turn up with Colodny's relative."