American Invsco may have acted illegally in reopening its sales office two days ago at the Promenade cooperative in Bethesda, after being forced to close down May 14 by the resignation of the broker of record, an official of the Maryland Real Estate Commission said this week.

The official, assistant director Pauline Masters, said Thursday that the Promenade could not be selling units legally because the sales offices does not have a licensed broker. She said she might send an investigator to the cooperative to look into the situation "very quickly."

Terry Burch, the resident broker, turned in his license to the state commission and put himself on inactive status last week.

This forced the closing of the Promenade sales office, because Maryland law requires that a real estate office have a resident broker who is licensed by the state. To reopen, the law requires that a new broker licensed in Maryland be found and approved by the real estate commission and a license to operate the office reissued, Masters explained.

A spokesman for Invsco in Chicago, David Varner, said the office reopened Thursday with a "duly licensed Maryland broker," though he could not give the name of the new broker.

But Masters said Varner's statement about the broker was "totally erroneous."

"If they are operating, they are doing so without a license," Masters said when informed of Varner's comments. "There is no way one [license enabling them to reopen] could be processed without coming through me," Masters added.

When told this, Varner repeated that his information was that the office was open with a new resident broker. "If they have a problem with that, they ought to be in touch with the Promenade people," he said.

Varner later called back to say the license was in the name Equivest and was approved by an Ed Ramirez at the real estate commission.

Ed Ramirez says he doesn't "do any approving whatsoever."

Masters then said that Jack Pappadeas, licensed with the Equivest Group Ltd., applied Thursday for an address change but that that would not qualify him to operate sales for the Promenade.

"I may get an investigator and auditor over there very quickly before this gets out of hand," she said. Operating without a license is subject to criminal prosecution in Maryland, with a penalty of up to $2,000 or imprisonment of up to one year, she said.

The phone was being answered at the Promenade sales office, and Promenade residents reported that sales personnel were offering to show units to prospective buyers.

When Burch resigned last week, the commission recalled all the licenses of other sales agents at the Promenade, telling them they are ineligible to work in Maryland until they transfer to another broker licensed by the state, Masters said.