Special to the Dispatch
OCEAN CITY — Although rumors have been swirling about the Worcester County Liquor Control Board (LCB) for months, the one that made its way through Ocean City yesterday has board members calling “foul.”
Early Thursday morning, word started to spread throughout the region that LCB Executive Director Brian Sturgeon had been fired by the county dispensary.
Board member Larry Wilkinson vehemently denied the rumor and said that terminating Sturgeon has never been discussed or even considered.
“As of right now, he’s still our executive director,” said Wilkinson. “Unless something happened between last night and this morning that I don’t know about, he’s still with us and there were never plans to do otherwise.”
Wilkinson said he’s not going to respond to further false allegations against the quasi-governmental monopoly or its employees.
“This type of stuff is starting to get ridiculous,” said Wilkinson. “We went before the County Commissioners and cooperated with the state with their audit, so until the state’s investigation is finished in December, I see no need to respond to any other type of allegation.”
Worcester County License Beverage Association President Doug Buxbaum said he is unsure of the origins of the rumor.
“We didn’t start the rumor, but we did hear about it, and honestly, it was just a rumor to us and there’s been lots of those about the LCB in the last few months,” said Buxbaum. “What we’ve been saying all along is that we would like to see the system abolished. It doesn’t matter who is in charge, we still believe the LCB is unnecessary for Worcester County’s future.”
Sturgeon’s checkered past has been the subject for much debate since he took over the LCB in 2007.
Despite spending time in federal prison for 12 felony convictions ranging from money laundering to conspiracy to lying before a grand jury, Sturgeon was hired by the current board in 2007, after giving full disclosure to the board about his past, to essentially run the operations of the dispensary. Sturgeon sets the prices and oversees the county monopoly that sells and distributes all liquor in Worcester County.
Yet, when allegations pointed to illegal price scheming, possible collusion, unlawful business tactics and a host of other accusations surfaced in April about the LCB, many people in the industry pointed the finger at Sturgeon. But, the board has stuck by their man and they say they will continue to do so.
“Brian has done a great job for us, and that hasn’t changed, despite what anyone says,” said Wilkinson. “He will continue to be our director.”
The comptroller’s office is expected to announce the findings of its LCB investigation in December.