The chairman of the commission that oversees liquor licenses in Prince George’s County was arrested on drunken driving charges Thursday night outside the MGM National Harbor casino after he was in a crash involving two other vehicles, according to police.
Charles W. Caldwell III, 72, was charged with DUI, reckless driving and related traffic offenses in connection with the crash, said Cpl. Lamar Robinson, a spokesman for Prince George’s County police.
In an interview, Caldwell denied that he was impaired and said the incident was more of a “scrape” than a crash. He said it occurred while he was in a traffic jam after leaving the casino’s grand opening festivities, where he was among the VIPs.
Officers were called to the scene, at Monument and MGM National avenues, about 11:40 p.m. They smelled alcohol on Caldwell’s breath and offered to give him a breath test, which he refused, Robinson said.
Officers then gave Caldwell a field sobriety test, which he failed, Robinson said. He was taken into custody and charged.
Caldwell said that contrary to the police account, he did take a breath test and it was inconclusive, according to the ticket police gave him. He said he had “a cocktail or two over four hours” at the VIP party.
Concerning the field sobriety test police said Caldwell failed, Caldwell said: “Yes — unfortunately I’m 72 turning 73 next week, and I’m a little unsteady on my feet.”
The highly anticipated casino and entertainment venue, located along the banks of the Potomac River, opened its doors to VIP guests at 7 p.m. Thursday and to the general public about three hours later.
Another person was in the car with Caldwell, police said. No one was hurt or taken to a hospital after the crash. Caldwell was later released from police custody, and another person took him home.
In early 2015, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) appointed Caldwell to head the Prince George’s Board of License Commissioners, over protests from the board’s former chair. He had been on the board since 2011.
A spokesman for the governor declined to comment.
In his role as chairman, Caldwell, a Bowie resident and former chief financial officer for the Peace Corps, oversees the five-member body that issues liquor licenses and regulates alcohol sales.
His predecessor, Franklin Jackson, had held the chairmanship for more than a decade and refused to relinquish it after Caldwell’s appointment. Jackson protested and sent letters to the governor claiming that Caldwell had not been sworn in appropriately.
Caldwell continued to hold and preside over the meetings.
Thursday’s arrest was the second time in recent weeks that a Prince George’s official had been charged with DUI after a crash.
In November, Prince George’s County Council member Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro) was charged with driving under the influence after the government-owned vehicle he was driving rear-ended a car stopped at a traffic light.