Fraternity and sorority members at the University of Maryland who promised "beer passes" to students as an enticement to vote in the recent College Park elections were violating state election laws, city officials said yesterday.
"It was illegal," said Barbara Schaffer, chief of the College Park Board of Elections Supervisors. She said the board had notified the city attorney of the violation, but did not know if any disciplinary action would be taken.
"We just don't want to see it happen again," she said.
The warning came as the city prepares for a runoff election Tuesday, necessitated by ties in the Nov. 5 election in the race for mayor and for one council seat.
The announcement of the election violation has fueled the acrimony between mayoral candidate V. Charles Donnelly and Mayor Alvin J. Kushner.
"It's inappropriate that we're going through a second election when the election was essentially bought," Kushner said yesterday. "These persons were voting for my opponent . . . without it the beer passes , the election results would have been different."
Donnelly, however, said he was not involved with the passes. "It's inappropriate," he said, but argued that Kushner was using the issue to "muddle the campaign."
While the candidates exchanged barbs on the issue, fraternity and sorority groups said the passes were used as a means of stirring student interest in the election. There was particular interest in the District 3 contest between Stacy E. Tuthill and William G. Salmond, who is campus student legal aid director and was endorsed by the Inter-Fraternity Council.
The passes were offered by fraternity and sorority councils and the Rendezvous Inn, a popular beer-drinking spot for college students. The passes allowed the students to move to the front of the line outside the bar, where patrons sometimes wait up to an hour in the cold.
Rendezvous owner and manager Mark Srour said the intention was to encourage students to vote, not to vote for a particular candidate. He did not know the practice was illegal, he said.