County Councilman John Grasso, who late last year asked to join the protracted legal battle between a liquor license applicant and the Anne Arundel County Board of License Commissioners, has been called before the county's ethics commission to discuss his involvement in the case.

The Glen Burnie Republican said he was served by the commission on Thursday. The summons orders him to bring all documents related to a liquor license request from The Depot Fine Wine and Spirits to a hearing on Jan. 20.

Owners of the Depot LLC have tried for more than three years to obtain a liquor license for a business in Parole's Gateway Shopping Center. The county's liquor board has denied the application twice, arguing the area is already well stocked with liquor stores.

The case is now in Circuit Court, with an administrative appeal hearing scheduled for Feb. 1.

In October, Grasso filed a brief asking to be a party to the Circuit Court case. While the Gateway Shopping Center is not in his district, he said he had been asked by constituents to help overturn the license denial and wanted to represent the public's view in court.

A judge rejected Grasso's request after attorneys for liquor stores opposed to the Depot argued he didn't have standing and was attempting to use his political influence in court.

At the time, the ethics commission remained silent on whether Grasso had crossed a line by attempting to join the case. Though the liquor board is mostly governed by state charter, council members have power over its budget.

In discussions on the liquor board's budget for fiscal 2016, council members, including Grasso, voted to cut $60,000 after questioning its leadership about a requested $70,000 budget increase intended to pay for growing legal fees.

Friday, Grasso reiterated the view that he is standing up for public opinion. He called the ethics commission summons "just one facet of the screwed-up system."

As for his October request, he said, "I'll do that stuff all day long when people aren't being treated fairly. I'm not going to bow down to anybody while I sit there and watch a segment of our government abuse their powers for favoritism to other people."

In March, the ethics commission fined liquor board Chairman Melvin Hyatt $2,500 — the maximum penalty allowed under the law — for not disclosing his connection to Severn Bancorp, which also had business dealings with stores that opposed the Depot's license application. 

Real estate firm Hyatt Commercial is a wholly owned subsidiary of the bank, which also "engaged in substantial business" with several of the protestants in the Depot case, according to the commission's order. Hyatt has since recused himself from the case.



┬ęPaid For By Friends ofJohn Grasso 2018, by authority of Julie Cameron Treasurer | Powered With   by Cuckhoo Web Design | Baltimore Web Design