A report submitted to the Montgomery County council yesterday strongly criticized the appointment last year of Frank Orifici as deputy director of the county's liquor control department, and cites "improper interference in the screening and examination process" by the office of County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist.
The report by the Merit System Protection Board centers largely on the role played by former Gilchrist aide Gerard Evans in securing Orifici's appointment and says that "although Evans' actions were not specifically directed by Mr. Gilchrist, Mr. Gilchrist at least concurred that Mr. Orifici was the individual who should be appointed as deputy director."
In a letter accompanying the report, the board's chairman, Ernest L. Bailey, said that if the board's finding of fact are sustained, Orifici's appointment could be invalidated.
Orifici could not be reached for comment on the report. A spokesman for Gilchrist said he would not comment because the report has not been publicly released. In a special executive session yesterday, the county decided not to release the report on the advice of its counsel.
The report says that Evans, who resigned in March, selected members of the Qualifications Appraisal Board -- which screens applicants under the merit system -- who agreed with him that Orifici was best qualified for the job before they read the applications of other candidates. The report also says that Evans was receiving loans from Orifici's uncle by marriage, Charles Buscher, at the time of the job, interview. In addition, the report states, one of the men who interviewed Orfici, Piere Eaton, had written a letter to county officials recommending Orifici for the job and once had a business relationship with Orifici.
The report emerged from a controversy over the way county jobs are awarded, which in turn resulted from a controversy about the so-called "revolving door" relationship between the county's liquor agency and the liquor industry in which those who buy liquor for the county sometimes purchase great quantities from the liquor companies that previously employed them.
Under the county merit system, all but 24 of the 6,000 county jobs must be awarded on the basis of qualifications rather than friendship. During the past year, more than 15 persons have complained to the Personnel Board that they were passed over for merit jobs because they, unlike those who were chosen, were not close friends with the those in the Gilchrist administration.
The current report by the Personnel Board resulted in part from such a complaint. Two years ago, Irwin Feldman, a liquor salesman, applied for the job Orifici was given but was not granted an interview. Feldman protested that the job was "rigged" for Orifici by Buscher, Orifici's uncle by marriage who was an adviser to Gilchrist on the county Department of Liquor Control.
Then in November The Washington Post published excerpts of secret tape recordings of four telephone conversations, made available to the newspaper, which informed sources said showed that aides to Gilchrist offered a job to a political friend, Leonard I. Colodny, in violation of county law. Within weeks, the county Personnel Board was swamped with complaints from persons who felt they had been wrongly passed over for county merit jobs.
In the past, Gilchrist has said that he recommends certain persons who are friends for jobs (in order) to keep the government responsive.
The report given to the county council yesterday says that Evans recommended Eaton to be a member of the Qualifications Appraisal Board, which screens applicants under the merit system, but "thereafter, Mr. Evans mentioned to Mr. Eaton that Mr. Orifici was a good candidate for the position of deputy director. Additionally, Mr. Evans recommended Mr. Orifici to Mr. Gault, another member of the QAB."
According to the report, the vacant position was improperly advertised by Robert Passmore, director of the liquor department, eliminating potential candidates by an inadequate job description and a five-day deadline, which was "too restrictive."
Only eight candidates were selected for interviews, according to the board, "while under regulations every candidate above average should have been interviewed." This improperly eliminated numerous candidates, according to the report.
In addition, the board said, Passmore's participation in reviewing applicants violated 1972 personnel regulations.