Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) wants the longtime chairman of the Prince George’s County liquor board to immediately cede his gavel to Charles W. Caldwell III, a retired federal worker who was chosen by the governor to head the panel, Hogan’s spokeswoman said Thursday.
Former board leader Franklin D. Jackson has refused to step aside and allow Caldwell to preside at any of the past four meetings of the County Board of License Commissioners , even though Caldwell was appointed chairman by Hogan in February and confirmed by the state Senate a week ago.
At each of the meetings, the other board members walked out after Jackson refused to yield to Caldwell. The most recent failed effort was Wednesday night.
“I was appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate and I have never seen anything like this in my life,” Caldwell said in an interview. “I have been involved in politics all over the country and I have never seen anything like this.”
As governor, Hogan is charged with making thousands of appointments to local and state boards and commissions, including the Prince George’s board that regulates more than 600 liquor-selling stores, restaurants and other business establishments.
“Governor Hogan nominated Charles Caldwell to this position, and the Senate fully confirmed him just this past Friday,” Hogan spokeswoman Erin Montgomery said. “That is all that needed to happen. Mr. Jackson is no longer the chairman.”
With the board’s inability to move forward, Caldwell said, he is considering consulting with Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) about taking legal action.
The Board of Licensing 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.
The board was supposed to hear two cases Wednesday night involving merchants who allegedly violated county liquor regulations. Those cases will be rescheduled, Caldwell said, along with cases that were supposed to have been heard during the three previous meetings. The board is next scheduled to meet on March 24.
Jackson was first appointed to the liquor board in 1996 by then-Gov. Parris Glendening (D). He became chair of the panel in 2000. He was reappointed for successive three-year terms on the board by then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and then-Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).
“I have been serving all these years and no one has communicated to me in writing that I am to discontinue my service,” he said. “Mr. Caldwell has never received a commission from the governor and he has not taken the oath of office as chair, as required by the Maryland Constitution. I am the chair of the board without question.”
In a letter to Hogan dated March 9, Jackson said: “The approach that you are taking to change the leadership of the Board is illegal and runs counter to your pledge of transparency, efficiency and accountability in governmental affairs.”
At the meeting-that-wasn’t on Wednesday night, Caldwell gave as good as he got, saying that Jackson’s efforts to stay in charge of the board come down to “an issue of half-truths and lies. It is a legal argument that bears no resemblance to the truth.”
Jackson, a D.C. native, attended middle school and high school in Prince George’s. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and a law degree from Duke University.
He is well-regarded by Prince George’s County Council member Karen Toles (D-District 7), who chairs the Health, Education and Human Services Committee, which oversees the liquor board.
“I don’t know about the disagreement between Governor Hogan and Mr. Jackson,” Toles said on Thursday. “But Mr. Jackson has helped me and the community in terms of enforcement. “Whoever is in charge of the Board of Licensing Commissioners, we need strong leadership.”