Gov. Larry Hogan’s appointee to chair the Prince George’s County liquor board took the unusual step of having a judge administer the oath of office to him Friday after his predecessor refused to relinquish the gavel.
Charles W. Caldwell III, the retired chief financial officer for the Peace Corps and a resident of Bowie, tried four times to hold a regularly scheduled meeting of the County Board of License Commissioners, which regulates more than 600 liquor-selling stores, restaurants and other establishments.
Each time, former board leader Franklin D. Jackson, who had run the meetings since 2000, insisted he was still in charge.
That meant disciplinary action for violations and the issuing of new liquor licenses were on hold in the county, with meeting after meeting being postponed.
Jackson said that although Caldwell, a Republican, was appointed by Hogan (R) and confirmed by the state Senate, he had not been sworn in — something that usually happens at a board meeting.
So Caldwell called a friend, Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Larnzell Martin Jr., and asked to come to his chambers and get sworn in.
“I am clearly the chair of the Board of License Commissioners, duly sworn in,” he said Monday.
Caldwell said the board will hold its next scheduled meeting March 24 at the Hyattsville Court Annex, where the liquor board’s offices are located. The board moved its meetings from the annex to the Bladensburg Municipal Center early this year, but Caldwell said the court annex would offer more security and the ability to address any further unrest or discord.
“I want to get this whole thing stabilized,” Caldwell said. “I want to hire more liquor inspectors and create several new jobs.”
Jackson, a lawyer for the federal government, said Monday that he still does not accept Caldwell as the head of the licensing board. He would not comment on whether he would again try to run the board’s next meeting.
“I have not received anything from the governor,” he said. “Not a phone call, nothing in writing for this entire process.”
The Board of License Commissioners meets three times a month, twice on Wednesday nights and once on a Tuesday morning. The panel issues liquor licenses, regulates the sale and control of alcoholic beverages, and responds to concerns raised by the public about businesses that sell or serve alcohol.
Jackson said the board recently began broadcasting its meetings from the Bladensburg Municipal Center. He said he was not sure whether the same option would be available from the court annex complex.
“The biggest problem with the liquor board is that too much of what is done is not available for public scrutiny,” Jackson said in an interview last week. “This is about bringing our meetings into the full light and it is ironic that the very month that we televised the meetings, there is an effort to shut us down.”
Jackson was appointed to the board by then-Gov. Parris Glendening (D) in 1996. He received subsequent appointments from Govs. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and Martin O’Malley (D).